10 Best Practices for an Environmentally Sensitive Site Analysis

At Art of Stone Gardening, we approach landscape design with a deep commitment to environmentally sensitive site analysis. This means thoroughly understanding the unique characteristics of each site before making any decisions. Environmentally sensitive site analysis – meaning taking into account the site and it’s environment before buying plants or installing landscapes and hardscapes.

The following are 10 best practices for an eco-friendly landscape, or environmentally sensitive site analysis:

  1. One crucial aspect of this analysis is considering the site’s climate. We assess whether the site is predominantly sunny or shady, as this has a significant impact on plant selection and placement.
  2. Understanding the terrain is also key; whether the land is flat or hilly can influence the overall design and construction process.
  3. When designing landscapes, we prioritize working with the existing contours of the land rather than altering them extensively. This approach not only minimizes environmental impact but also preserves the natural beauty of the site.
Lake Laceola in Cleveland GA
This project for a client on Lake Laceola is an example of taking the terrain into consideration in designing a solution. Rather than cutting a path straight down the steep hill, we installed a series of steps and landings that protected the hillside even while creating a thing of beauty.
Northeast Georgia mountains
While we did not select or grade this site (we built the retaining wall), this is an example of a very steep hillside on which the creation of a flat landscape works against the natural grade of the site.

4. We also carefully consider the interaction between trees and grass. Adding grass to wooded areas can be challenging, as trees often outcompete grass for essential resources like moisture and nutrients. By selecting the right plant species and understanding their needs, we can create balanced and sustainable landscapes.

5. Our goal is to avoid high-maintenance landscapes that require excessive watering, mowing, and weeding. Instead, we focus on selecting plants that are well-suited to the local environment and require minimal intervention.

This lush and lovely yard could not be what it is without additional inputs – watering, mowing, and weeding.

6. In areas where deer are prevalent, we choose plants that are deer-resistant to avoid the need for fencing or chemical deterrents. This not only reduces maintenance but also promotes a healthier ecosystem.

7. Erosion control is another important consideration in environmentally sensitive site analysis. By preserving existing ground cover and minimizing disturbance during construction, we can help prevent erosion and maintain soil health.

This picture illustrates several mistakes. One is that erosion of the land is out of control. Two, the ground cover has been removed which does nothing to help with carbon sequestration. Three, the loss of ground cover has also led to a complete loss of habitat.

8. Water conservation is also a key principle in our designs. We use watering zones based on plant water needs to reduce water usage and promote sustainable practices.

9. Promoting carbon sequestration is another aspect of our approach. Planting large trees and preserving existing trees helps remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, contributing to climate change mitigation.

10. Finally, creating habitats for wildlife is a priority. By incorporating layered planting with trees, shrubs, and groundcover, we provide diverse habitats for various animals, enhancing biodiversity.

In conclusion, environmentally sensitive site analysis is at the core of our landscape design philosophy. By considering the site’s unique characteristics and working in harmony with the natural environment, we create sustainable and beautiful landscapes that benefit both our clients and the planet.

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