Landscape Planning and Design in Mountain Environments IS Different! - Part Five

Kings Canyon National Park | Photo by Robie Litchfield
Kings Canyon National Park | Photo by Robie Litchfield

In some ways Landscape Design in warmer climates is similar, but in many ways, it is VERY Different!  A number of factors play into the planning and design of mountain landscaping.  Following are areas where the differences affect design and planning so that Mountain Landscape Projects can not only survive but thrive. 

In Part Five we take a look at some fun Mountain Landscape Appropriate Amenities and Landscape Features and a couple of off the wall items...

What Amenities are Possible?

a couple playing footsie in hot tub
A couple plays footsie in their snow surrounded hot tub/spa

fire pits
Fire Pits are a year- round favorite in the Mountain Landscape – especially if they come with their own maintenance person!  Local Fire Jurisdictions may have prohibitions on types of fire pits and/or fire pits in general so know the rules in your area. | Photo and Design -  Residence in Truckee, CA – Robie Litchfield

I love Landscape Lighting – can I have that in my Mountain Landscape?  And what is this I hear about Dark Sky Lighting?

Milky Way
The Milky Way taken in the High Sierra - Troy Corliss- photo

Dark Sky Ordinances are efforts to keep stary skies visible.  Particularly in Mountain Communities Dark Sky Ordinances are becoming more common

  • Dark Sky Compliant Fixtures shield light from shining beyond a certain plane, most prevent light from emitting past the horizontal, as well as, into neighboring properties preventing light pollution
  • Light Pollution occurs when light from one property spills over into a neighboring property creating a nuisance
    • Classic examples of this situation occur when motion censored flood light shine into neighbors properties or into adjacent street blinding passersby in cars and on foot
    • Up-lights, Accent Lighting and any kind of lighting that is directed upward is generally considered light pollution and prohibited under most Dark Sky guidelines

Dark Sky Compliant lighting fixtures
Dark Sky Compliant lighting fixtures direct light toward the ground and prevent illumination above the light protecting the night sky

Some communities require only partial shielding of the top portion of the lamp and others require what is called ‘Full Cutoff’ Shielding to prevent visibility of light from all but the horizontal, walking and driving, plane

  • Local ordinances are available through local Planning Departments Websites

Can I grow a Lawn?

delux landscaping lawn
Photo:  Deanna Neu – DeLux Landscaping – Truckee Tahoe

I have a Lawn but I want to Convert it to a Mountain Meadow – can that be done?

Natural Wildflower Garden - Mokelumne Wilderness, Carson Pass, California
Natural Wildflower Garden - Mokelumne Wilderness, Carson Pass, California

I’d like to use Concrete Pavers instead of Asphalt for Paved areas on my site – is that okay?

A Concrete Paver Walk retains heat from the ground for a while making way finding easy in snowy conditions

  • This is an excellent Idea!
  • Concrete Pavers are a great paving alternative to Asphalt Concrete, (AC) in Mountain Settings

  • Concrete pavers provide a durable surface for walks, patios, driveways and parking areas
  • Advantages to Pavers include:
    • They are more DURABLE – the life expectancy of good concrete pavers far outlasts that of asphalt by many years in most cases
    • When INSTALLED CORRECTLY, require little to no maintenance. 
      • They do not typically crack nor require periodic sealing as does asphalt
      • They can easily be installed with subsurface heating to reduce the need for mechanical snow removal methods
      • The Return on Investment for repair and replacement is exceptional

Can I have Art in my Landscape?

art installation
An art installation called ‘Earth Sphere Fountain’ at Kendall Square in Cambridge Massachusetts takes on a life of its own day to day, season to season

What about Those – sometimes - Nasty Pests?

a young moose
BUSTED!! A young moose grazes in a garden in Talkeetna, Alaska – not an unusual sight in the Wood River Valley either - just be careful that Momma isn’t nearby or that you are not situated between them!

Thank you for delving into some of the many issues I consider in my design process as a Landscape Architect in the Mountain Environment.  I invite you to ask questions, suggest more topics and make comments on my website at ‘Send us a Message’