The THB Farm blog has been sadly neglected in recent months due to deadlines and commitments, but I’m back , this time to post a review of Massachusetts landscape architect Sue Reed’s excellent new book “Energy-wise Landscape Design: A New Approach for your Home and Garden“. This book is a must-read for anybody looking to build or renovate a home, especially in the temperate climate of New England, where the siting, positioning and surrounding landscaping of a home can directly influence the energy efficiency and environmental footprint of your property.
Sue’s book is timely for many reasons. As our utility bills go through the roof and natural resources continue to suffer enormous pressure from development, industry, the spread of invasive, non-native plant species, and an increase in devastating storm damage, homeowners have every incentive to reduce their energy usage and landscape their properties in a way that contributes to environmental health rather than degrading it further.
The book is structured into useful sections such as ‘Arranging the Landscape to Help Cool a House in Summer’, ‘Situating New Homes with Energy in Mind’ and ‘Fitting the Landscape to the Land’, which shares excellent tips for landscaping on slopes. Even if you’re in the midst of a current landscaping or construction project, the section “Revise your Ideas to Fit the Terrain” is worth reading before you do any more work! In New England, where every property seems to be situated on some kind of hill, Sue’s book will help you understand how to work with the challenges of your landscape and turn them into design features that enhance your property’s beauty and usefulness.
Landscaping sections include designing gardens to reduce water usage, how to have a green, healthy lawn without using toxic chemicals, and information on how to properly plant trees and shrubs. Considering that most plant deaths that happen in the first few years occur because of improper planting (by homeowners as well as poorly trained landscapers!), this is advice that will save you money!
Construction and installation-related topics include building wood structures for long life, installing efficient outdoor lighting, how to lay durable patios, paths and stone walls, and ways you can generate your own energy from your property using sunlight, wind, water and geothermal heat. Clear diagrams and pictures illustrate complex concepts such as how to read and understand the effects of sunlight on your property based on your geographic location, altitude and time of year.
Although Energy-Wise Landscape Design is a practical, comprehensive guide that could be used as a textbook for a sustainable design curriculum, Sue’s writing style is friendly and the book is a surprisingly good read, considering the technical nature of its subject. It’s no surprise that Sue taught for many years at the renowned Conway School of Landscape Design, her writing reflects her ability to explain complicated concepts in a way that students can understand. I read half this book in one sitting, but I know I’ll be returning to it time and time again as a technical reference on future projects. My only disappointment was that the beautiful photos of ecologically-friendly landscapes were not in full color, but I’m sure this kept the book’s price at an affordable price.
Energy-Wise Landscape Design belongs on the bookshelf of everyone who dabbles (or works!) in construction, gardening and landscape design. Even if the only greenery in your yard is a lawn, you will learn from this book, and in the process, save money, time and protect our precious natural resources.
Visit Sue Reed’s website at EnergyWiseLandscape.com to learn more and order a signed copy of the book.