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Beauty on Site

Living with Nature – Beauty and Challenge

Beauty on Site

Beauty on Site

Hummingbird

A hummingbird stopped by while Barb and I chatted in the courtyard.

An important part of the Site Petal in the Living Building Challenge is the restoration of a healthy co-existence with nature. The team has worked diligently to create spaces onsite that support native flora and fauna, making Desert Rain a space shared with the area’s wildlife. Living with nature can offer great beauty and pose interesting challenges.

Well within Bend’s urban area, delicate and drought tolerant plants attract migrating hummingbirds. Native shrubs and grasses provide shelter and food for resident deer. Carefully chosen plants prevent the spread of invasive species while simultaneously contributing to the overall health of the soil. Mature trees protected through the construction process provide shade, food sources, and homes for small animals like squirrels. It’s a beautiful place to be for every being.

 

The Challenges of Living Together

Deer Rubs on Saplings

A typical deer rub on one the Desert Rain saplings early this Fall.

While every creature is welcomed at Desert Rain, some pose a challenge. Take our resident deer herd, for example. Male deer rub their antlers on tree stems and trunks in the early fall. Bucks do this to remove the velvet that has been growing on their antlers throughout the summer. They prefer small trees, usually one to three inches in diameter – like our very newly planted serviceberries. The vertical scrapes and shredded bark are problematic for our saplings because the bark (the xylem and cambium layers) makes up the tree’s system for carrying food from the leaves to the roots. If the rubbing is too severe and the bark is removed all the way around the tree, the flow off food is cut off and the tree will die.

Tubes to protect trees from deer rubs

These tubes protect small trees from deer rubs.

Can we live with nature while maintaining our carefully landscaped spaces? A quick web search for deer rubs results in many ways to keep deer out of a yard. But Barb and Tom are not trying to keep the deer away. Instead, they have turned their attention to protecting their newly planted trees in a way that doesn’t push the animals away. Simple tubes passively protect the young saplings, while the deer still happily bed down in the nearby grasses. It’s a wining compromise.

Living with Nature

 

 

Landscaping with Restoration Principles

Rick Martinson, owner of Winter Creek Restoration, is passionate about incorporating restoration principles into created environments.

Rick Martinson, owner of Winter Creek Restoration, is passionate about incorporating restoration principles into created environments.

Rick Martinson and the team from Winter Creek Restoration have been on site this past week, creating an ecology-based landscaped area surrounding Desert Rain. By incorporating restoration principles into the landscaping, Winter Creek Restoration will be creating something that is both remarkably beautiful and astoundingly smart.

The Winter Creek Restoration Team: Dayne Galish, Andy Dwyer (OSU Intern), Calina Merrow (OSU Intern), Conor Bidelspach, Kimber Warnock, and Rick Martinson (owner).

The Winter Creek Restoration Team: Dayne Galish, Andy Dwyer (OSU Intern), Calina Merrow (OSU Intern), Conor Bidelspach, Kimber Warnock, and Rick Martinson (owner).

Speaking with Rick about his work, one quickly realizes that he is both passionate and knowledgeable about the way native plant ecosystems function.  He was kind enough to take time from the busy day to explain the science behind the work the team will be doing and the long term process that the Desert Rain landscape will go through.

Resource Islands

The most common landscaping strives to support plant-life evenly throughout a space. Shrubs, flowers, and grass are watered and given nutrients, regardless of the shade created, natural flow of water, and nutrient deposits. This type of landscape requires more water and more nutrients, and also requires more weed control. In an effort to conserve water, soil nutrients, and effort, Desert Rain is looking to the natural world for inspiration.

Planting shrubs near rocks helps create "resource islands" - areas that will support plant-life with very little water or resources.

Planting shrubs near rocks helps create “resource islands” – areas that will support plant-life with very little water or resources.

Looking closely at the natural vegetation in the sage steppe area in places like Central Oregon, you can see that plants clump together in small “resource islands,” surrounded by spaces that have almost nothing growing.  Rick explained that these clusters of plants are supported by, and create, nutrient pools – or areas rich with nutrients, water, and shade. A large sagebrush, for example, creates shade for smaller plants and sheds leaves to create a layer of mulch to keep moisture from evaporating from the soil. Similarly, a large rock creates shade as well as collecting solar heat. Rocks also cause water to collect and even provide nutrients.

A Wyoming Sagebrush is at the center of this "resource island."

A Wyoming Sagebrush is at the center of this “resource island.”

As a variety of plants begin to grow near the rock or shrub, they create a microclimate that other species can also take advantage of.  Conversely, the spaces in which no plants grow are all but nutrient void. These voids don’t support the growth of weeds like Cheatgrass and Russian Thistle. Winter Creek Restoration is using this understanding to plant native small grasses and flowers near shrubs and rocks, creating resource islands that will require very little water and maintenance, yet will offer immense beauty.

We're looking forward to watching the northern slope of Desert Rain grow.

We’re looking forward to watching the northern slope of Desert Rain grow.

Rick’s wife, Karen Theodore, runs Winter Creek Nursery and has supplied all of the plants for our project. We’re looking forward to watching plants like Western Yarrow (Achillia Millifolium), Wyoming Big Sagebrush (Artemisia Tridentata var. Wyomingenesis), Desert Spray (Holodiscus Dumosus), and many more native species thrive in a landscape that mimics their natural settings.

Currently working on his doctorate, Rick hopes that ecology-based landscaping will become more of the norm in the landscaping industry and more appreciated by municipal planning departments. We’re looking forward to hosting some of Rick’s future educational workshops and seminars on the Desert Rain site.

Putting Out the Welcome Mat

Last Saturday Desert Rain welcomed participants of the Green and Solar Tour. The tour, presented by the Cascadia Green Building Council High Desert Branch included five commercial buildings and five private residences. Desert Rain was considered one of the most innovative and energy saving homes on the tour. Desert Rain is aiming for third party certification through the Living Building Challenge .

With landscaping well underway, arriving visitors were able to walk on the partially completed paths leading to the main house or to the accessory dwelling unit. The landscape design focuses on water conservation by using drought tolerant and native plants, permeable pavers and surfaces, and reusing the captured greywater for irrigation. The ‘Miro’ wall gracefully leads into the home and continues through the structure creating continuity between the indoor and outdoor spaces.

welcome path

The hardscaping includes the use of  lumber salvaged from the ponderosa pine that was removed from the site. Timbers are incorporated into the privacy fencing separating the accessory dwelling unit from the interior courtyard.

design signs

hallway The textures, materials, and natural color tones of the hallway create a welcoming ambience. The American Clay on the walls, salvaged, myrtlewood flooring, FSC and reclaimed woods, and diamond polished cement floors are some of the elements  helping Desert Rain achieve the Materials Petal for the Living Building Challenge.

The highly energy-efficient, triple paned, Loewen sliding glass doors open onto the south patio and interior courtyard.  As part of the passive solar design, 90% of the windows in Desert Rain are south facing.  The paving stones and decomposed granite used on the patio and pathways create a permeable surface allowing rainwater to flow through into the soil.

 

view from sliding door

All the structures at Desert Rain are designed to maximize roof surface for rain water harvesting. The captured water is filtered and flows into a 35,ooo gallon cistern located beneath the garage where it travels through additional filtering processes before it arrives at the low flow (1.5gpm) faucets. The harvested water will be the source for all domestic water use, including drinking water.

landscape signs

Ani and Amy

 

Some of the Desert Rain team were on hand to help tell the story of building extreme green. Amy Warren (left) owner of Green Apple Construction and her partner, Josh applied the American Clay plaster throughout the house.  Ani Cahill (right) is with Heartsprings Design, the landscape design team. E2 Solar owner, Mike Hewitt explained the 14.8kw photo voltaic modules to interested visitors. Tom Elliott, owner, Al Tozer designer with Tozer Design, and James Fagan and Kevin Lorda with Timberline Construction answered many questions about the design, construction, materials, and features of Desert Rain.

Green and Solar tour participants view, inquire, and admire the elements that put Desert Rain on the ‘bleeding edge’ of sustainability in the built environment. The Living Building Challenge stipulates education as part of the requirements of meeting certification. Desert Rain owners Tom Elliott and Barbara Scott have put out the welcome mat for a multitude of visitors during the past 3+ years that the design and building process has been underway.  They recognize that Desert Rain is their dream and a demonstration project. Their hope is that each visitor will go away with ideas, inspiration, and awareness for what is possible.

 

people on tour

Progress in Pictures

Every trip to the Desert Rain site reveals changes and surprises as many aspects of the project are coming together and nearing completion. Color and texture abounds in the materials inside and out. The landscaping is underway with pavers, boulders, and gravel being installed. It is getting easier to walk about the site as holes get filled and ground is leveled. Electrician, Mike Wagnon has been diligently installing the LED lighting system throughout the project creating a warm glow. The myrtlewood flooring in the main house is being sanded. Many of the cabinets and built-ins are in place. Tile is up and grouted. Browse the photos for a current peek at the progress. We are working on a new photo Gallery page for the website that will keep you updated. Please check back and visit our Gallery/ New Progress.

The kitchen area in the ADU with FSC wood cabinets, salvaged myrtlewood flooring, and recycled backsplash tiles.

The kitchen area in the ADU with FSC wood cabinets, salvaged myrtlewood flooring, and recycled backsplash tiles.

The living space in the main house showing the reclaimed wood ceiling in the glow of the LED lighting.

The living space in the main house showing the reclaimed wood ceiling in the glow of the LED lighting.

The den in the main house with American Clay wall covering, salvaged myrtlewood flooring, and LED lighting in place.

The den in the main house with American Clay wall covering, salvaged myrtlewood flooring, and LED lighting in place.

LED lighting system currently being added in the dining area.

LED lighting system currently being added in the dining area.

LED flower lights create ambience in the guest bath with light reflecting in the recycled, glass tiles.

LED flower lights create ambience in the guest bath with light reflecting in the recycled, glass tiles.

Appliances are in place in the main house kitchen. FSC wood cabinets and recycled material tiles.

Appliances are in place in the main house kitchen. FSC wood cabinets and recycled material tiles.

Hardscaping is underway outside with installation of pavers and driveway.

Hardscaping is underway outside with installation of pavers and driveway.

The south patio with basalt steps, boulders, and pavers in place.

The south patio with basalt steps, boulders, and pavers in place.

Attention to detail: the pavers have been cut with graceful curves to accent the boulders.

Attention to detail: the pavers have been cut with graceful curves to accent the boulders.

The first art in the garden is placed at the memorial planting for the ponderosa tree that was removed before construction.

The first art in the garden is placed at the memorial planting for the ponderosa tree that was removed before construction.

Beautiful contrast of earth tones, light and reclaimed wood on the west patio.

Beautiful contrast of earth tones, light and reclaimed wood on the west patio.

Excavators and people don't seem to bother the resident buck as he takes an afternoon siesta under the apple tree.

Excavators and people don’t seem to bother the resident buck as he takes an afternoon siesta under the apple tree.

Outside the Box

Barb, Tom, Ani Cahill, and Rick Martinson collaborate on some landscape and planting decisions.

Barb, Tom, Ani Cahill, and Rick Martinson collaborate on some landscape and planting decisions.

The structures at Desert Rain can hardly be described as boxes. I have used the term loosely to imply two things: One – the scope of the project is seeing a surge in outdoor work, hardscaping, landscaping; two- the work taking place outside is beyond the realm of traditional yardwork.

 

Construction of the ‘Miro’ wall is well underway. The curved, masonry wall is a continuation of the interior wall. It gracefully curves between the main house and the accessory dwelling unit creating a courtyard of privacy and a backdrop for the memorial tree planting for the ponderosa pine that was removed from the site.

Rick Siers with Kevin Spencer Masonry building the 'Miro' wall.

Rick Siers with Kevin Spencer Masonry building the ‘Miro’ wall.

 

 

Chris Hart Henderson and Ani Cahill with Heartsprings Design have been on board since the beginning of the project. Ani has been working on planting modifications and underground irrigation plans. The original landscape design utilized plants that could survive in extremely low water conditions. With the approval of the gray water system and 5,000 gallon storage tank for irrigation, the diversity of plants has grown.  Though she will still use native, dryland, Mediterranean type plant material, Ani said she is now able to ‘juice up the palette of plants, particularly in the inner courtyard, making it visually more exciting. She will also be increasing the edible plant percentage to help meet the Living Building Challenge requirement of 35%.  The graywater will be processed through a bio-reactive, constructed wetland. Whole Water Systems  engineered the structure that will contain plant material, rushes, and sedges that will treat the graywater as it percolates through the system – about a seven day process. The Desert Rain wetland is the first graywater system in the state to be permitted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Permits with the City of Bend are pending.

The landscape plans continue to evolve  as new structures are added and more water is available for irrigation.

The landscape plans continue to evolve as new structures are added and more water is available for irrigation.

 

Native, drought-tolerant plants like these in the Wintercreek Nursery greenhouses, will be used at Desert Rain.

Native, drought-tolerant plants like these in the Wintercreek Nursery greenhouses, will be used at Desert Rain.

There is a collaborative effort taking place among landscape designers, landscape installers, and plant experts. Rick Martinson with Winter Creek Restoration and Nurseryhas joined the Desert Rain team. Rick has an ecology based approach to landscaping. He will be focusing on the steep, rocky west slope and the plantings in the constructed wetland area. Rick said the large rock outcrop on the west side has a diversity of microclimates as the rocks create pockets of intense heat, poor soil base, and shade.
Rick has worked with other green projects including LEED and Earth Advantage. He said Desert Rain landscaping will be a ‘demonstration of a system that functions with plant communities specific to the site to make the landscape sustainable. In his view, the demonstration aspect and the holistic approach of the Living Building Challenge is what makes the project important.

Winter Creek Nursery in Bend. Rick Martison and Karen Theodore specialize in native, local plant material.

Winter Creek Nursery in Bend. Rick Martison and Karen Theodore specialize in native, local plant material.

 

Thinking outside the box has been a necessary element in creating this Living Building Challenge project.  The landscaping and plant selections are no exception. The Desert Rain team of landscapers, with the designers and builders have been ‘cross-pollinating’ ideas to intermingle the structures with the outdoor spaces.  The landscape work will soon begin to blend function with aesthetics, to create a flow of inside and outside space. It begins by sowing the seed, propagating and planting, cultivating green growth and good living by thinking outside the box.

 

The Miro wall gracefully curves through the structure and emerges outside to enclose the courtyard.

The Miro wall gracefully curves through the structure and emerges outside to enclose the courtyard.

Educational Gardening

Yvonne Babb (left) and Dorothy Freudenberg tackling weeds. The team approach with good conversation and more hands makes the work more enjoyable.

Yvonne Babb (left) and Dorothy Freudenberg tackling weeds. The team approach with good conversation and more hands makes the work more enjoyable.

Yesterday at Desert Rain under a sultry, cloud filled sky, I met with Yvonne Babb and Dorothy Freudenberg.  I went to talk about on-site weeds and landscape clean-up. The conversation quickly traveled to education, art, and gardening as the three of us discovered common ground.

Last fall Yvonne eradicated unwanted shrubs to create space in the terrace garden.

Last fall Yvonne eradicated unwanted shrubs to create space in the terrace garden.

Desert Rain and the Living Building Challenge promote education as an element of the project.  Yvonne’s business, Your Garden Companion, combines her two passions, education and gardening.  She works with her clients to create productive, beautiful landscapes that grow in harmony with the unique Central Oregon climate and soil. Yvonne’s gardening philosophy is a good fit for Desert Rain and the goals of the Living Building Challenge. Yvonne has been gardening with Barb and Tom at their current residence. Her husband, Geoff Babb, from his personal experience in a wheelchair, has been consulting the Desert Rain team on ADA issues. Yvonne came on to the site last year to help with the ‘secret terrace’ garden clean-up, weeding the rye grass, cheat grass, and mustard that are the 3 worst culprits, and start some plantings on the steep, rocky terrain on the west side of the site. Yvonne has started to replace the rye grass with plantings of native Idaho fescue to help stabilize the disturbed soil on the steep terrain. The rocky outcropping is home to some native Rugosa rose, Oregon grape, sage, and bitterbrush, as well as a few rockchucks.

The 'secret' terrace garden showing the lush, greens of early summer - a respite in the hot summer days.

The ‘secret’ terrace garden showing the lush, greens of early summer – a respite in the hot summer days.

Weed removal is strictly mechanical, pulling by hand to eliminate the use of any harsh or toxic chemicals that would be harmful to the health of humans and existing wildlife. The work is physically demanding but working in crews lightens the load. Dorothy Freudenberg was part of the crew yesterday. Dorothy, a friend of Barb’s, is a photographer, artist, Master Gardener, and today – a weed puller.  Part of Dorothy’s artist’s statement on her website (Dorothy Freudenberg Art ) declares she is ‘continually engaging in experimenting and expanding her expressive capabilities’.  She appears to be embracing that philosophy with her involvement with Desert Rain as she takes on various tasks to help as needed.

Dorothy - photographer, artist, Master Gardener takes on the role as weeder.

Dorothy – photographer, artist, Master Gardener takes on the role as weeder.

Like every aspect of the Desert Rain project, the landscaping is very much a team effort.  Chris Hart-Henderson and Ani Cahill with Heartsprings Design, are the landscape designers for the project. Chris has been involved with the project since the very beginning – advising on existing vegetation, site orientation, and exploring possibilities as the original house design was scrapped and the new design for the Living Building Challenge was embraced. One of the landscape requirements of the LBC is that 35% of the vegetation must be edible to either humans or wildlife. Chris and Ani have incorporated that into the overall plans. On her website, Yvonne states that she ‘integrates native plants and/or vegetables into her projects that encourage wildlife to serve as pollinators, pest control agents, predators and workers in the soil, creating a healthy place for life. Gardening this way on a regular basis is not only a beneficial physical activity, it is a journey of cooperation and learning about what plants and gardening strategies will sustain us into the future.’

Chris Hart-Henderson, Barb, and Tom contemplating the steep, western slope at Desert Rain.

Chris Hart-Henderson, Barb, and Tom contemplating the steep, western slope at Desert Rain.

A favorite aspect of my job is meeting the people who comprise the Desert Rain Team.  With my background in organic gardening, farming, art, and outdoor education, I have found kindred spirits in Chris, Ani, Yvonne and Dorothy.  Among gardeners there is often sharing, encouragement, and lending of hands.  This is most evident at Desert Rain as many hands and minds collaborate for the good of the project toward the goal of meeting the Living Building Challenge and a sustainable lifestyle. To borrow from Yvonne’s statement: ‘it is a journey of cooperation and learning about what will sustain us into the future’.

Tom brings the trailer to load the yard debris that will be taken to the recycling center for composting. Yvonne's son, Emory, taking a break from U of Oregon,   to help with the clean-up.

Tom brings the trailer to load the yard debris that will be taken to the recycling center for composting. Yvonne’s son, Emory, taking a break from U of Oregon, to help with the clean-up.

 

Water-wise Plants

Oregon Grape Holly

Golden leaves glisten with frost this morning.  Fall has arrived.  Though it seems like the time to be tucking the garden and flower beds in for the winter, it is also an ideal time to plant shrubs, trees, and perennials. A few weeks ago I posted a blog about the landscaping that will take place at Desert Rain when the major structure construction is completed.  The landscape challenges at Desert Rain are common throughout Central Oregon; poor soil, rock outcroppings, and scarce water. In addition to those limitations, the high desert creates severe temperature fluctuations. Hot days can quickly turn to below freezing nights. Summers are quite warm and very dry. Winters can bring bitter cold winds and marginal precipitation. It takes hardy, tough, tenacious plants to adapt and thrive here.

Great Reading! Sagebrush Country, A Wildflower Sanctuary Ronald J. Taylor Plants that can withstand the extremes

 

Wild Strawberry is an excellent low-water ground cover.

Buckwheat – many varieties of buckwheat all well adapted to poor soils, hot sun, and minimal water.

While growing conditions in Bend, Oregon may be harsh, it is time for all of us to think about landscape changes that minimize water use.  According to the NOAA climatic data site, based on the Palmer Drought Index, about 55 percent of the contiguous U.S. fell in the moderate to extreme drought categories at the end of August this year (2012).  That may be incentive to exchange the water- guzzling, green, grass lawns for water-conserving, drought-tolerant plantings.

Desert Rain’s landscape designers, Chris Hart-Henderson and Ani Cahill with Heartsprings Design, (Heartsprings Design)use hardy, locally proven, long-blooming, native and drought tolerant plants in their designs.  Since there will be minimal irrigation water available at Desert Rain, the plant legend reflects choices that, once established, will survive and thrive on little water.  The Desert Rain site has existing vegetation that includes some native plant species. Those plants are thriving in the rock outcropping on the west side of the property.  The Living Building Challenge requires that 35% of the landscape plants must be edible. In addition, the LEED requirement is for 80% of the plants to be native. It has been a challenging process for Chris and Ani to create an atmosphere and visually appealing landscape with the requirements for certification and with the restrictions of climate and site.  For Barb and Tom, a big part of Desert Rain has been sharing the information that is being learned in the design and building process.  In that spirit, I am sharing the plant list here.  Take advantage of these beautiful fall days and get a growing start on a water-wise landscape.

Serviceberry is a large, variable size shrub. It has fragrant white flowers in the spring and bears a juicy, bluish-purple fruit that makes flavorful jellies and pies. It is an excellent food source for birds and other animals.

Lavendar hidcote – aromatic, colorful, very hardy and requires minimal water.

 

Woods Rose – hardy and drought tolerant

These plants are adapted to the regional, high desert terrain of central Oregon.  List uses ‘common’ plant names. Check your local nursery for native and drought-tolerant plants.

Native Fescue wildflower meadow area may include:
Idaho Fescue, Blue Flax, Oregon Sunshine, Showy or Lowly Penstemon, Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Orange Globemallow, Desert Lupine, and Sulphur Buckwheat.

 

Shrubby Penstemon

Dryland Areas:  Mix of native grasses and shrubs that may include:
Sagebrush, Mountain Mahogany, Rabbitbrush, Wax Currant, Idaho Fescue, Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Blue Flax and other native wildflowers.

Pussytoes as groundcover.

Ground cover: Sedum Album, Sedum Acre, Pussytoes, Mixed Sempervivuvis and Wild Strawberry.

Perennials:  Catmint, Lavendar, Shrubby or Davidson’s Penstemon, Yucca, creeping Oregon Grape, Oregon Grape Holly, Woods Rose, Yucca

Walker’s Low Catmint – tough, colorful, and not very thirsty.

 

Trees and Larger shrubs:
Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), Sub-alpine fir, or Murryana Pine, Native Chokecherry, Manzanita

Sub-alpine fir – slow growing, drought -tolerant evergreen

 

 

 

Looking Outside to Landscape

Site grading and fill have eliminated the need for the ramp at the east entrance.

The site has been changing the last couple of weeks as fill dirt arrived and grading is taking place. The large holes, lumps, and bumps from construction are disappearing and it is more evident how the site will function. When all the major construction is done, the landscaping will be one of the last elements in place.

The landscape plans.

The landscape design is the work of Heartsprings Design. www.heartspringsdesign.com Chris Hart-Henderson, owner and Ani Cahill, designer have been with the project from the time the lot was purchased. Chris was brought on board to help guide the early design process: the location of the house for views, vegetation, and orientation, what vegetation had inherent, long-term value, what should stay, what needed to go. The landscape plan with the original house plans was part of the package ready to go to the city of Bend for approval. Then Barb and Tom discovered the Living Building Challenge. Those plans were not feasible to meet the LBC goal. There was a difficult decision to pull the plans and start again. The first phase had been a big learning and awareness building period. Chris was excited to embrace the challenge of redesigning around a new physical space, as well as the challenge of the LBC.

Chris, Tom, and Barb discuss the landscaping from the west side ‘mail trail’ that leads down to the street on Shasta Place.

Heartsprings Design has a history of using hardy, locally proven, long-blooming, native and drought tolerant plants that effectively conserve water and minimize the need for irrigation. These landscapes thrive in the unique high desert terrain of central Oregon. The constraints of the LBC present some additional challenges for designing the landscape at Desert Rain. Ani said the limitation of water is the most challenging; ‘how to create an atmosphere with virtually no water?’ Desert Rain does have a 35,000 gallon cistern and will be collecting rainwater from the roofs of all the structures on site. All of that collected water will be stored and used for domestic purposes only. None of that water is available for irrigation. With average, annual precipitation in Bend at 10 to 12”, there is little available water for the vegetation. A storage system for grey water is in the design and approval process. There will also be a wetland area on site. The available water from those systems may be used on the landscape plantings. Will that water be enough?

The native bitterbrush that is growing on the west side rock outcrop is well adapted to the sparse soil and water conditions.

Another requirement of LBC is that 35% of the landscape must be edible. Growing edibles in the high desert climate is tough in the best of conditions. Chris said, ‘the limitations of trying to grow on a rock outcropping with poor soil and scarce water will be tricky’. In addition to the apple trees that are well established on the site, Chris and Ani decided to go with plants that provide more of an indigenous culture diet. Service berry, elderberry, currants, wild strawberries, rose hips, Oregon grape and choke cherry will help meet the LBC requirement of edibles and hopefully, will adapt to the marginal conditions on the site. The landscape design includes raising up planting areas with native lava rock and reclaimed rock from the site. Good quality soil will fill these beds to provide a better growing base. There will be some small raised beds for vegetables and herbs.

The hardscaping and the plantings will have a dramatic impact on the appearance of the site. Desert Breeze, the Accessible Dwelling Unit will have a private courtyard. Desert Rain, the main house will have several private patio and courtyard areas. One of the patios will be using the concrete remnants of an old sidewalk from the original houses. There will be accessible pathways to many areas on the property. There is a ‘secret terrace’ below the house that provides a private and quiet sanctuary. Al Tozer, designer of the structures described the project as a ‘marriage of the inside and outside’. Chris said from an artistic standpoint, she loves that coordination of the architecture of the home and the integration of the indoor and outdoor spaces. An example is the curved, ‘miro’ wall that begins on the outside of the west end of the house, continues through the house, out the east end of the house and will be reflected by an exterior courtyard wall. That kind of detail brings continuity and beauty to the project.

Heartsprings Design has three projects that have the distinction of certified Platinum LEED for homes – the highest honor awarded by the Green Building Council.

When I spoke with Ani last week she said Heartsprings Design frequently works within the constraints of CCandRs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions) on their landscape projects. Desert Rain is a similar process. Coordinating the elements of local materials, native rock, native plant material, drought tolerant plant material, poor soil, and little water with the additional criteria of the LBC, has taken that process up several levels. The landscape plans indicate that Chris and Ani have embraced the challenge. We’ll be anxiously waiting for the rock, pavers, steps, walls, pathways, and plantings to be installed – the final transformation from construction site to home.