Designing with Drought Tolerance

Designing with Drought Tolerance

Designing with Drought Tolerance

by Mike Tripp, DynaSCAPE Account Manager

California has now gone through four years of severe drought causing water shortages and forest fires, all at a great impact to the state’s economy and businesses. To account for the difficult climate, the landscape industry has been forced to change its practices.

Many landscape contractors are turning to “drought-tolerant” plants, which require very little water in order to survive, in lieu of traditional plants. One landscape company is very familiar with this practice, Taryn Tree, of Treehouse Landscape Design. Taryn became comfortable working with drought-tolerant plants in the High Desert area of California where she worked for several years as Ambassador for the Indian Wells Water District before moving to Camarillo. With her knowledge of Xeriscaping, landscaping that uses “various methods for minimizing the need for water use”[1], Taryn is able to reduce the home’s dependency on water for plant material. Taryn says she has seen a rise in homeowners requesting contractors to rip out all turf and opting instead to go with synthetic turf, resulting in at least a 50% decrease in the amount of water needed. Taryn is happy to see that several nurseries in her area, such as Bamboo Pipeline (, are stepping up and becoming a source for drought tolerant plants and information.

Rob Henderson of Artisan Outdoor in Irvine has also witnessed the impact the drought has had on his business. In response to the crisis, new municipal regulations have been adopted making permits for things such as pools more difficult to get. He has also had to purchase new equipment to cut and install for artificial turf. As a result of the drought, Rob has seen drip irrigation, which is a “method of irrigation which very efficiently delivers water to the soil surface or the root zone; this is done by having water drip slowly from emission devices, most commonly called ‘drip emitters’ or ‘drippers’”[2], become more mainstream. Rob has seen some positive increase from the drought for his business as homeowners see companies like his who have become experts in the field of drought management as important resources.

Designer, Charlene Brum  of San Martin, has also seen a big increase in customers wanting to retrofit their homes to incorporate more drought-tolerant plants and become less dependent on water. She has seen at least a 50% increase in designs and customers wanting to retrofit existing lawns and gardens to properties less dependent on water. She has been doing many more designs that incorporate boulders and dry creek beds in replace of plant material in front yards. In the back she will utilize pergolas, arbors and walkways to offer additional interest in addition to a selection of drought tolerant plants. The challenges of the drought have given Charlene opportunities to be creative in new ways with her designs, for example, replacing the natural curves of the lawn with hardscaping lines.

Homeowners in California are doing their part to conserve water.  Water use in the state has dropped 27.3%,[3] more than the mandated amount of 25% set by the governor. Rebate programs are offered through the state to encourage water conservation. Some programs, such as the turf removal program, were so successful they had to be shut down as they had insufficient funds to meet the demand.[4] Homeowners and landscape contractors alike are also starting to make decisions on what to plant based on the ever-growing chance of fire in California. There is a growing trend of ‘fire-smart’ landscaping that aims to control a fire should it break out near your home.[5] Tactics such as using wide paver walkways at least 4 feet wide to divide up garden sections, use low-lying and compact shrubs, trees and perennials so as to not completely cover a home in foliage and clean up dead branches and leaves from around the garden.

The ongoing water shortages and increasing risk of forest fires in California have brought changes and challenges to how outdoor spaces are utilized in California. The landscaping community is responding by finding creative ways to reduce water use and protect homes against fire while continuing to provide unique, relaxing outdoor spaces.  Designers and Contractors in California will no doubt be looked upon for ideas as water shortages and drought spreads to other areas outside of the state and water conservation methods continue to be sought after.







LDAW Landscape Architecture Featured in Outdoor Home Magazine

LDAW Landscape Architecture Featured in Outdoor Home Magazine

Casual Elegance

A young New York couple looks to landscape architecture to create an outdoor living space for entertaining

by Bill Einhorn, LDAW Landscape Architects,

I was hired by a young couple with three children in Westchester County to design and construct an outdoor entertainment area. They had just purchased the home and it already had a nice pool but it was disconnected from the residence. The owners wanted ideas on how to tie the areas together, increase the amount of living space as well as extending the outdoor season. Between the pool and the house was a basic wood deck. The deck was at a different level from the pool and you had to walk down steps and through the lawn to get to the pool area. The customer also wanted a link to the rear lawn area for the children. One of the major challenges I faced as a designer was the steep slope up from the end of the deck to the rear yard.

New items on the clients’ wish list were an outdoor fireplace, a built in BBQ area and a large spa they could use all year long. As per my usual design method, I drew about 5 different sketch concepts showing different arrangements for the proposed program elements. After shooting some elevations I determined that there was only a 4” difference from the existing deck to the pool area and there really was no need to have steps down from the deck and walk back uphill to the pool area.  My goal was to have the new terrace, fireplace, BBQ area and spa all on the same level and with similar materials visually tying all the areas together. After reviewing the concepts with the client we combined aspects of several of the ideas into a final plan. I also created a 3D model for the client which really helped them understand what the space would actually look like.

The fireplace was the main feature and we wanted it seen from the kitchen and living room area adjacent to the sliders. Because the space was long and narrow due to the slope, I wanted to elongate the fireplace area to include built in seating areas and firewood holders. I chose a 48” modular fireplace unit as the skeleton for the area. The stone used for the fireplace and walls was Connecticut Field Stone. The BBQ area needed to be adjacent to the kitchen and would include a refrigerator.  A few of the concepts for the spa had it as part of the pool deck with expanded seating. We ultimately decided to have the spa as a more secluded, intimate space at the far end of the pool that could be enjoyed year round by installing equipment separate from the pool which would be shut down for the winter. The spa we installed was a fiberglass model and an impressive 10’ in diameter. We decided to have it raised to promote seating on the coping. Pool and spa automation has come a long way over the past few years. We installed a fully automated computer system for the pool and spa that the customers could control from a wireless tablet as well as being able to program the spa to be on and heated through their IPhone by the time they got home. The spa also included LED color changing technology which puts on a great color show if desired.

The existing landscape style around the pool was very natural with many boulders, Bamboo and ornamental grasses. We extended the boulder theme to wrap around the spa area and planted it with Bamboo including a Rhizome barrier. To keep the naturalistic theme the new steps leading up from the pool area to the rear lawn were stepping stone slabs approximately 6” thick. Additional plantings to the new areas included a variety of plants that would provide seasonal interest. A few of the plants we used were Butterfly Bush, Hydrangea, Stewartia, Agastachae, Knockout Roses, Coreopsis and several varieties of ornamental grasses with creeping succulents within the step areas.

The new spaces proved to be a great success. The client loves the fireplace area and were even having fires while we were still working on other areas of the property during construction. The spa has proved to be a big hit with the teenagers of course and with the adults after the kids have gone to sleep.

This was a wonderful and rewarding project to work on. As a Landscape Architect here in New York I definitely have seen a trends toward extending the amount of time clients can enjoy their properties and features such as spas, fire pits, fire places and outdoor kitchen areas are a few great ways to achieve that goal.

This past month we were called back to design and install a Bocce court for the client on the uphill area. Due to the slope we had to sink the terrace end of the court and have a retaining wall around the perimeter. It was very challenging to create a level area 75’ long but it came out great and the clients love the new space!


About Bill Einhorn

Mr. Einhorn is a licensed Landscape Architect in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Bill received his landscape architecture degree from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University. Prior to establishing LDAW, Mr. Einhorn was the Landscape Architect at the New York Botanical Garden. Bill has also lectured for the Cornell Cooperative Extension, The Horticultural Society of New York, and various garden societies. Presently, Bill teaches several landscape design courses at The New York Botanical Garden. In 2006, Bill was awarded “Instructor of the Year” for his significant contributions to excellence in continuing education. Besides running LDAW and teaching, Bill also serves as the President of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers ( here in New York, and served as Chair for the Residential Design Professional Practice Network for the American Society of Landscape Architects (


The Residential Trifecta: Connecting 2D Plans, 3D Models, and Landscape Business Management

Note: This is the session presented at the American Society of Landscape Architects Expo in Denver, CO on November 24, 2014.

The need for drafting, modeling and management tools to aid the designer in estimating and presentation for residential landscapes is key. Come explore the use of 2D and 3D software developed for these designers. We will highlight DynaSCAPE for clear, concise 2D landscape drawings, SketchUp for 3D modeling from the 2D plans, and DynaSCAPE’s Manage360 which develops cost based estimates and detailed job costing reports based on the plans.

Working in concert, these applications provide a complete solution to the landscape architect residential professional enabling them to deliver a better product to their clients.

Industry heavyweights Daniel Tal, Mark Carvalho, and Patrick DuChene demonstrate DynaSCAPE Software’s workflow of going from DS|Design (CAD based design) to DS|Manage360 to SketchUp using DS|Sketch3D.


The Future of Landscape Design Software

The Future of Landscape Design Software


Where the technology is headed, and how you can keep up with it as it changes.

From last century to today, landscape design has gone from hand-drawing on paper, to CAD drawing in 2D, to designing and rendering in 3D. Many still prefer the finesse and artistry of drawing their designs by hand. Others would not consider drawing without professional design software. And three-dimensional renderings are now becoming more common, with many landscape firms offering their clients a 3D design option (for an additional fee, of course). The question we all want answered is, “What will landscape design technology look like in the future?”

We might be just on the cusp of a time when most of those who hand-draw finally make the leap to a software solution, to help expedite the process. The need to complete more drawings in less time is the main driver here. While hand-drawing will never go away, advances in computer-assisted drawing technology have made it very easy to justify the adaptation and change. Landscape designers who traditionally preferred to hand-draw are now, more than ever, using software solutions to help them speed up the process and increase their productivity.

And new innovations are appearing all the time. Recently, at a tradeshow, an iOS/Android app developer was showing off an Augmented Reality app he’s building that will take your SketchUp drawing and put it in any location. He said it’s a few years away from being ready for the market, but just imagine being able to put your client in their new outdoor living space and letting them see what it looks like from any and every angle before you build it!

There’s no doubt that in the next five years we’ll see a higher level of automation in CAD and 3D software, giving users the ability to complete tedious and time-consuming tasks even more quickly. Without a doubt the standard for landscape design will be 3D presentations.  While many solutions are working hard for market share, it’s very apparent that Trimble SketchUp is the dominant leader in the 3D realm.

How do you stay ahead of the technology curve? It’s next to impossible. A better strategy is to keep up with it. Invest in the latest versions of your chosen application, and regularly invest in training for you and your team.

What about the next 10 years? Well, it’s obviously nothing more than speculation on our part, but with the work being done by Google, Microsoft Virtual Earth, and IBM (see Watson), it certainly looks like we have a lot to look forward to.

What do you want your landscape design software to look like in the future? What should it do? Let us know! Email us at

Design Tips for Walkways

Design Tips for Walkways

This article was written by Len Hordyk, DynaSCAPE Product Manager – Design Solutions. Len has over 20 years of experience in the landscape industry.

Design is a creative process that gives you the freedom to choose the lines, shapes and styles that you feel are best suited to your project and your client’s wishes. There some simple design tips to consider when designing a primary walkway. Let’s use the example of a residential walkway that will function as a means to connect the driveway to the front entrance.
Approaching the Driveway – Most mistakes are made where the walkway opens up at the driveway. Most designers understand that you should widen a walkway where it connects to a larger area, like a driveway, to collect and funnel people down the path. The first instinct is to flare the walkway to a sharp point on either side (A). This is bad design from a construction point of view because it is difficult to shape materials like natural stone or pavers into a sharp point. Concrete could be formed into this shape quite easily, but this narrow section is structurally weak and prone to crack or break off, especially in colder climate with ground frost. It would be more appropriate to start flaring the walkway further back in order to end the edge at a much less sharp angle. This can work with both curves and square lines as shown in the examples below (B,C).


Designing Steps in Walkways – When placing a step or steps into a walkway design there a few things to consider. It is important to remember to use the same rise and tread for all steps, with a maximum height of 7” (80mm). If you are breaking up steps with landings, keep landings no shorter than 4’ (1.25m) with a preferred length of 5’ (1.5m) to allow for regular rhythm of movement. Dealing with a step at the driveway can be challenging and is often done incorrectly. Since most driveways have some slope to them, if you placed a step right against the driveway edge, the step rise would be become increasingly higher further down the driveway (A). This can be both dangerous and awkward. The key here is to place the step in the walkway away from the driveway, allowing you to slope the last part of the walkway to match the driveway (B). This may require something to retain the grade at the ends of the steps but the results are far more desirable.


Dealing with Longer Walkways – Large homes often need long walkways to connect the driveway to the main entrance. This often leads to long, boring walkways with little interest for the user so the challenge here is to make it an interesting and pleasant experience. This can be easily done by adding a focal point or several features along the way. One option would be to add a sitting area with a bench, or a place for planters or sculptural elements (see diagram below), keeping in mind not to disrupt traffic flow. Another option might be to add an expanded area with a different material or pattern to break up the walkway and add interest. Remember to flare the walkway properly at the road or driveway and place your steps in the right location(s).


Guidelines for Walkway Design

Guidelines for Walkway Design

This article was written by Len Hordyk, DynaSCAPE Product Manager – Design Solutions. Len has over 20 years of experience in the landscape industry.

When designing residential walkways (and pathways) it is important to think about the basic guidelines of width and slope for them to be functional.

Width Guidelines:
The width of a residential walkway depends on what type we are talking about: Primary or Auxiliary. A primary walkway example would be a main walkway connecting a driveway to a front entrance. An auxiliary walkway could connect a driveway to a side door entrance.

Primary Walkways
Primary walkways should be a minimum of 48” (1.25m) wide. This width is to accommodate two walking side by side. This width would accommodate wheelchairs as well. This does not mean all front walkways need to be this wide on every design. This is the minimum width – actual width should be proportional to the space and the size of the residence.

Auxiliary Walkways
Auxiliary walkways generally only need to accommodate one person at a time and therefore 24” (.60m) is essentially all you really need. This seems a bit narrow for some scenarios so I generally bump them up to 36” (1m). In some cases stepping stones could suffice instead of a solid walk.

Slope Guidelines:
Primary residential walkways generally should not slope more than 2% unless it is designed for wheelchair access. Any slope greater than 2% can be dangerous when covered in ice. Auxiliary walkways can have slopes up to 5%, but if it is well-used consider adding steps if ice can be a problem.

All walkways should have some slope to ensure proper drainage. So, how do you know if your walkway is exceeding 2% slope? A 2% drop over a distance of 10 feet (120 inches) is 2.4 inches. If your walkway drops more than 2.4 inches over 10 feet, you know you are over 2% (drop ÷ distance x 100 = % slope).

Whenever your slope exceeds 2%, use steps in your design. The key to the proper use of steps is to keep them all at a consistent height. 6 – 7 inches is the preferred height, while anything less than 4 inches is considered a trip hazard.