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2023 Design Futurist Honors: The Nest and A Resilient Cottage

Articles: 2023 Design Futurist Honors: The Nest and A Resilient Cottage

Spring 2024 

Standout examples of native plantings and sustainable techniques took home Honors in Pacific Horticulture’s 2023 Design Award competition. What ideas will you take home from these California gardens?

Pacific Horticulture’s Design Futurist Award debuted in 2023 to address the gap in recognition of garden designers who work on modest-scale ecological and climate resilient garden design, while also sharing replicable design solutions to gardeners and allied professionals.

The Award exposes the beauty of landscapes built to conserve plants and wildlife, treat our water and soil as precious, and hold the well-being of human beings at the center of our gardened environments. A jury of highly experienced horticulturists, landscape designers, and landscape architects awarded Top Prize to gardens aligned with several of our core themes: Growing for Biodiversity, Drought and Fire Resilience, Nature is Good for You, Garden Futurist, and Sustainable Gardening, while conferring Honors to two designs embodying a single theme in an exemplary way.

The jury panel awarded Honors to two standout California designs: “The Nest,” in Santa Cruz, designed by Joni L. Janecki & Associates, Inc., and “A Resilient Cottage,” in La Cañada Flintridge, by Shawn Maestretti of Studio Petrichor.

THE NEST - Joni L. Janecki & Associates, Inc.

Adjacent to a nature preserve in coastal Santa Cruz, the owner of this 9,500-square-foot pollinator- and habitat-supporting residential project, a wildlife advocate, was inspired to support the area’s rich ecology with the help of Joni L. Janecki & Associates.

Native plants punctuate the mow-free fescue upper meadow and the lower grassland, which was designed to echo the meadow in the adjacent nature preserve. Existing mature cypress and oak trees—plus coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis), California lilac (Ceanothus), and sagebrush (Artemisia) shrubs—were protected to preserve their habitat value. The designers, Joni Janecki and Joanne Hutson, crafted “a model of interwoven natural communities” feeding insects, birds, and wildlife, down to the intentional lizard crevices in the rock walls.

Judges appreciated the skillful use of borrowed scenery. Photo: Joni L. Janecki & Associates

Key strategies included finding plants that thrive on the site’s shallow soil and fine-tuning that soil to meet the conditions, said Janecki. Another involved blocking the preserve’s resident gophers from exploring the new plantings, which required jackhammering a three-foot-deep line trench filled with aggregate.

The team also created a seasonal dry creek bed that wraps around the hillside by carving the existing stone terrace, revealing sculptural mudstone.

“The way the light shifts across the property and backlights the grass heads is magical,” said Janecki, adding, “The constant parade of wildlife, from insects and lizards to owls and hawks, is better than any TV.”

Jury judges appreciated the skillful use of borrowed scenery, in which the plantings and reflecting pool seamlessly dissolve into the surrounding grasslands, and the use of native plants.

 “We are thrilled to have our work recognized, especially with such a sensitive, ecologically powerful project. We hope this will inspire more people to choose natural gardens over high-input, resource-demanding gardens,” Janecki said, “This type of design has serious momentum, particularly on the West Coast, but we need to continue to build demand in order to support nurseries that want to be ecologically responsible, but also need to pay attention to their bottom line.”

DESIGN FUTURIST 2024

Call for Submissions Now Open

Pacific Horticulture’s Design Futurist Award elevates the power of garden design to achieve climate resilience, steward biodiversity, and connect people with nature. Learn More

A RESILIENT COTTAGE - Shawn Maestretti, Studio Petrichor

This charming garden designed by Shawn Maestretti of Studio Petrichor packs a lot of sustainable design tools in less than 5,000 square feet, including hügelkultur berms, water tanks, lasagna mulching, earth formations, native plants, and vibrant rain gardens.

At first, the front yard was regularly flooded by a neighboring property, and the backyard, near a highway, was rarely used.

“It just lacked identity, and you could feel the owner’s frustration,” Maestretti said.

A Resilient Cottage. Credit: Shawn Maestretti, Studio Petrichor

By using what he calls “carbon culture,” capturing rain and nurturing soil so that it becomes a sponge that hydrates the landscape when needed, the design “optimized the soil to such a degree that she [the owner] rarely sees water collecting in the rain garden,” he said.

To honor the land’s oak woodland heritage, the designer said 90 percent of this garden—in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains—is dedicated to California native plants, with “at least 50 percent” dedicated to hyperlocal, keystone species. “In a region that goes up to nine months without rain, our focus was to put this garden to the test through conscious water-harvesting practices to increase water-retention in the soil,” Maestretti said.

As to the backyard, the owner avoided it because of the proximity to the highway and suggested simply using it to store the rain tanks.

Today, the back garden is “a magical woodland,” Maestretti said, with a winding path ringed by oaks and hügelkultur berms—and yes, two water tanks. The owner loved the result so much she moved her home office to overlook the new garden.

Maestretti said he was very excited to read the competition guidelines because they suited Studio Petrichor’s environmental focus, and he’s glad to see interest in design that focuses on natural environments as well as built ones. As for winning, “It feels wonderful.”

A Resilient Cottage. Credit: Shawn Maestretti, Studio Petrichor

Both designs submitted embodied all of the Awards Narrative Themes below.

Award Narrative Themes

Growing for Biodiversity

Ecologically focused gardens that support food webs and pollinators by including native and keystone plants with minimal or no traditional lawn, low water use, and functional planting, while minimizing impacts of artificial light.

Drought and Fire Resilience

Gardens that demonstrate principles of water wise design or protection from wildfire especially in the wildland urban interface, including appropriate plant selections for the garden and community.

Nature is Good for You

Gardens that support human health and well-being, connecting individuals or communities with nature and place.

Garden Futurist

Gardens that embody a vision for future livability in the face of climate change, applying research and innovation, while embracing cultural knowledge and inclusion. Garden installation and maintenance is achieved by employing fair, equitable practices.

Sustainable Gardening

Gardens that demonstrate a commitment to green infrastructure, temperature moderation, fossil fuel reduction, and care in materials selection and sourcing.

2023 Design Futurist Award Jury

Nadia Al-Quaddoomi (San Francisco, California), Senior Designer, Terremoto. Nadia has 13 years of hard-hitting, scale-ranging, various-landscape-use experience.

Becca Hanson (Bainbridge Island, Washington), of Studio Hanson | Roberts, and SH | R Studios: Conservation by Design “Celebrating Wild Life.” Becca is a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects and founding director of both The Portico Group in 1983 and Studio Hanson | Roberts in 2003.

Daniel J. Hinkley (Kingston, Washington), writer, lecturer, explorer, nurseryman, and garden maker. He designed and established both Heronswood and Windcliff in Washington state.

Nancy Roche (Sonoma, California), owner partner of Roche + Roche Landscape Architecture in Sonoma, California.

Noel Kingsbury, PhD (Oliveira do Hospital, Portugal), internationally acclaimed horticultural writer, teacher, lecturer, and garden/planting designer best known for promotion of naturalistic planting design, and 25 books, four in collaboration with Dutch designer Piet Oudolf. 

Scot Medbury (Eugene, Oregon), an accomplished innovator in American public gardens, having served as director of the botanical gardens and conservatories in Brooklyn, New York, as well as San Francisco and Sonoma, California.

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