Sustainable Landscape Designs and Water Features Detailed in New Publications

April 1, 2011, 8:14 am | Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Willy Klein

AMES, Iowa — Creating a sustainable landscape or an outdoor living space that includes a water feature is made easier with expert advice, and that is what Ann Marie VanDerZanden, Iowa State professor of horticulture and extension landscape horticulture specialist, offers in her two most recent publications. “Sustainable Home Landscapes,” co-authored with former horticulture student Josh Schultes, was released this month; “Ornamental Water Features for the Midwest,” co-authored by VanDerZanden, Cynthia Haynes, ISU horticulture, and Richard Clayton, ISU aquaculture, was released in January.

Sustainable Home LandscapesPeople who desire a low-maintenance landscape that uses limited outside resources, is environmentally friendly and economically feasible, and is aesthetically pleasing are looking for a sustainable landscape. The benefits of a sustainable landscape are that it uses fewer inputs (water, chemicals – fertilizer and pesticides, and labor) and creates minimal outputs (green waste), but is still aesthetically pleasing.

“In many cases, homeowners can add sustainability to their landscape by making a few changes relative to the plants they include and the hardscapes they use,” VanDerZanden said.

VanDerZanden gives the following as ways to add sustainability, “Removing a concrete walkway and replacing it with permeable pavers can reduce the amount of stormwater that leaves the site. Keeping rainfall on the site where it falls is an important part of a sustainable landscape. Or, replacing high input plants (those that need a lot of water, fertilizer, pesticides) like hybrid tea roses with a low input shrub rose, is a good way to improve sustainability.”

In “Sustainable Home Landscapes,” she tells how to design two categories of sustainable landscapes – those that are new construction and ones that involve retrofitting an existing design. The full-color photographs compliment the information about plant and turf selection, hardgoods and irrigation, as well as inspire the reader. The publication is available through the ISU Extension Online Store,, for $6.50, plus shipping and handling.Ornamental Water Features for the Midwest

The second publication, “Ornamental Water Features for the Midwest,” was designed to discuss the nuances of Midwest water features which wouldn’t necessarily be covered in a general “how to build a water feature” publication. “Water features in the Midwest are a little tricky relative to warmer parts of the country,” VanDerZanden  said. “Because of our extreme cold temperatures, the materials used for the water feature, such as the liner material, pump and plants, must be able to handle the cold. It also means that if fish are in the pond that the pond must be deep enough to allow the fish to overwinter.”

This 24-page publication is divided into 5 chapters — Ecosystems, Types of water features, Design and construction considerations, Selecting water garden plants, and Rain gardens — and features more than 50 photographs and illustrations to dramatically bring the information to life. The publication is available through the ISU Extension Online Store,, for $7, plus shipping and handling.


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