Designing at the Edge

Transforming Landscapes with Ecoscape

Article by Carolyn Davidson

Photography by Kelsey Huffer + Dehan Davis Photography

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

If you’ve ever dreamed of turning your yard into a verdant Eden, you know how challenging transforming a natural space can be. In Boulder County, Ecoscape is known for turning yards into show-worthy gardens of lush grasses, bright blooms, and thoughtful design. Ecoscape offers an environmentally conscious design that brings a home-owners vision to life, whether your existing space needs a new direction, or you have a blank slate to fill. 

Lisa Sangelo, PLA,  started her career by studying Fine Arts and Horticultural Science. After learning of Landscape Architecture, Lisa dove into the career that combined her interests of art, science, and the natural world. 

For Lisa, an exciting aspect to bring to a landscape, one that will set yards apart from those around them, is known as the Edge Effect. David Holmgren first introduced the idea of the Edge Effect in the early ’80s with his book, Permaculture One. The Edge Effect is the idea that the meeting of two biological communities, for instance, forest and grassland, offers the most interesting space because of the diversity of both plants and animals. These transitional areas are called ‘Ecotones’, and you can find species from each neighboring biome as well as species unique to the combination of the two. In the natural world, these edges serve as ‘energy traps’ since they are the points where materials, nutrients, and organisms flow across ecosystems. They create beneficial microclimates, biodiversity, and biomass.

“Edges are dynamic, complex, and fascinating! What’s exciting is that this principle can be applied to just about everything, from ecology to aesthetics and human interaction,” Lisa says. 

You may be thinking that you need a large plot of land to execute this idea, but Lisa would disagree. 

“We are constantly working and playing with the edges - between inside and outside, wildness and control, intimate and public,” she explains. “These translate into landscape materials and techniques, between lawn and garden bed, footpath and front door, property and right of way…The elements in these residential-scale examples are macrocosmic expressions of the edge effect. As designers, we are always thinking about the interface. The edges are rich and offer up opportunities to come up with unique solutions.”

With the Edge Effect, your landscape architect will be mimicking the curves and contours of nature.

“In designing with the Edge Effect, the goal is to increase edge length to optimize diversity,” Lisa says. “Traditionally, this has been done with undulating curves because they mimic nature’s patterns. There is more work in optimizing the edge effect [than using a more modern style] and more reward… Longer walls, winding creeks, and longer paths. Just as the dry creek slows down runoff, a meandering path takes longer to traverse, slowing us down and allowing more time to be outside.”
At Ecoscape, the landscape designers strive to be innovators in their field, in both their ecological approach and their integrated services. 

 “We always have been and will be at the edge of the present,” Lisa says. “Dwelling here and optimizing this edge, slowing down, increasing awareness, and attending to the details seems like the right thing to do.” 

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