Montauk, New York
The goal of this project was to link two adjoining lots on a hillside overlooking a lake. The clients had built two structures, a primary residence on one lot and a guest house on the other. LDG’s brief was to join the two into a unified whole, while enhancing the environmental integrity of the landscape. The clients enjoy outdoor activities, including swimming in the lake adjoining their landscape, and they were committed to doing their part toward protecting its water quality.
The main obstacle to realizing these goals was a depression running down the border between the two lots that not only visually separated them, but also collected storm runoff. Rather than attempting to eliminate this, the design team decided to make use of and enhance this natural feature. Invasive plants were removed to free up the native vegetation. The depression was excavated, lined with a cascade of rock to simulate a seasonal stream bed, and then planted with sedges (Pennsylvania sedge), grasses (switchgrass and little bluestem), and other indigenous vegetation appropriate to the site. This constructed streambed now functions as designed, collecting water during storms, filtering it through vegetation, and eventually releasing it into a band of preserved wetland vegetation bordering the lake. The installation of a bridge over this feature connected the two lots into one and provided a link for the simple turf paths between the main residence and guest house.
One of the developing threats to the quality of the water in the lake is a high level of nitrates, and the clients chose to minimize the use of turf in their landscape to reduce nitrogen runoff from lawn fertilizer. Indeed, the only substantial expanse of turf is immediately around the swimming pool. Otherwise the planting was limited to mostly shadbush, bayberry, inkberry holly, arrowwood viburnum, red cedar, and other shrubs and smaller trees that naturally inhabit the area around the lake shore. By extending this tapestry over the two lots, the planting assisted in unifying the two areas into a single, environmentally healthy, whole.