Role of water in Landscape Design

May 11, 2020
Garden Design with The Best

Park-van-Luna4. ECOLOGICAL

Orongo Station by Nelson Byrd Woltz in Poverty Bay, North Island, New Zealand

Water not only sustains humans, but wildlife depends on it also for its ecological value. Unfortunately, human activity has changed natural water systems and degraded critical wildlife habitat, but the field of restoration seeks to address issues facing habitat loss to bring back functioning ecologies.

Nelson Byrd Woltz is leading the field in the integration of water, restoration ecology, and agriculture. As part of their conservation agriculture studio, the Conservation Master Plan for Orongo Station in Poverty Bay, New Zealand, restored wetlands to use water as an ecological driver. Historically, the wetlands were drained to be converted to grazing lands and one of the objectives of this project was to bring them back. However, these are no ordinary wetlands – they were designed as a living piece of art.

Two kilometers of deep river winds through seventy-five acres of constructed wetlands. Inspiration was taken from the landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx and his highly abstract work. Freshwater wetlands and salt marsh brought back native ecologies and now provide habitat for the native flightless birds on the island. This project conserves places that should have never been farmed while integrating them into the cultural landscape of the native Maori people.

Zollhallen PlazaWATCH >> From landscape architecture to conservation agriculture | Thomas Woltz | TEDxCharlottesville

Pre-treatment swales gather freshwater, filter it with plants, and hold it in the wetlands until it can be infiltrated. The agricultural fields were rearranged to accommodate the restoration and their edges were forested to protect the citrus crops. This integrates human activity with natural systems that work in harmony. Landscape architecture has the potential to push this idea and use water to our advantage, and other species’ advantage, as well.


Using water in design is not just about collecting and infiltrating. Purifying the water and cleaning up the pollution it carries not only leads to a healthier community, but a healthier environment. Water management can be subtle, or in-your-face, like Park van Luna in the Netherlands. Here, a residential development is integrated with recreational opportunities and a large body of water that reduces floods, preserves wetlands, and harvests stormwater. Part of the larger City of the Sun, the whole development will run on renewable solar energy, making it carbon neutral.

An EcoDistrict. Image coutesy of ZGF ARCHITECTS LLPIt is on an island, surrounded by a 60 ha lake, so it just makes sense to embrace the water and manage it in a unique way. Reducing our climate footprint, while preserving the environment, is how the field should push new development in the future.

Out of a total of 177 ha, 75 ha are dedicated to open space and sports; activities that promote social interaction. A 1 km beach, sports center, and walking /cycling paths, encourage a healthy community. In regards to using water, this project excels in the purification of the water it is so integrated with. A natural purification plant, a de-phosphatizing pond, and a pumping station all encourage residents to interact with and learn about the systems. The system was also designed to store a large amount of water to be used during the summer months.


Another revolutionary way to use water is to hold it, and then release it gradually in order to lessen the burden on conventional water treatment systems. This decreases CSO overflows and allows treatment plants or natural bodies of water to slowly deal with the ever-increasing occurrence of floods which climate change is causing today. Waterplein Benthemplein in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, utilizes public space to address the issue of floods.

Three concrete basins were designed to hold water, then release it slowly. This is truly a unique way to design multi-use public space. One of the basins is fed by a waterfall which directs rain water into it, and the others are graded to collect surrounding runoff to fill up.

In dry weather, each basin has a different use. People utilize them for seating, football, and volleyball. Intimate spaces are created with plantings that uptake the water as well. Rotterdam is a city of water, and dealing with it in the public square is an in-your-face way to create multi-functional spaces that increase the efficiency of stormwater management while educating the community. The temporary storage of excess rain water can increase the efficiency of our infrastructure and show us what really happens when it rains.

WATCH >> Waterplein Benthemplein


One of the most efficient and easily-implemented ways to deal with water in the environment is through a network of small-scale interventions that mitigate runoff and pollution. Designing a system is what works, and is how new development should be tackled – it creates a cohesive landscape that addresses issues in every way. Imagine if every new renovation and street incorporated stormwater plantings on it. The benefits add up quickly and result in an efficient system overall.


Landscaping Tips

Though your home is your castle, there is no necessity to surround it with a moat. Here are 5 tips that will help you to make your landscaping feel more warm, welcoming and cozy.

1. Put some flowers nearby your entrance. Flowers make any area look more welcoming and attractive, so greeting your guests with Petunia, Snapdragon, Lily-of-the-Nile or some other garden flowers is always a great thing to do. What is more, to add some space between your house and the entrance, you can consider adding a little white fence. It will create an illusion that your front yard is bigger than it actually is. What is more, adding fence will create a great space for planting flowers to add some color and coziness.

2. Add rambling vines to make your yard look absolutely lovely. You can not deny that rambling vines always create romantic and even magical atmosphere. So why not to use this tip while decorating your yard?

3. To hide the unattractive driveway, consider adding some color, texture, and height. You can easily do it by adding various sorts of flowers. To start, create an island of green lawn right in the hub of a drive. Then add a couple of low boxwood hedges with flowers toward the back of your island.

4. If you want your yard to blossom and flourish bust still do not have enough time to maintain it, consider planting low-fuss lilies. Such flowers look absolutely gorgeous and come in the variety of rainbow hues, so you can pick the one you love most. What is more, low-fuss lilies do not care about the sort of soil, they love the sun and welcome hot, they do not afraid of drought. In other words, Crinums is an ideal flower for all those who are looking for low-maintenance solutions.

5. The last tip also touches the low-maintenance aspect. To make your life easier, group plantings into beds and islands. This will help you to avoid mowing and trimming around each individual plant, save a lot of time and even money.

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