Debbie Gliksman, owner of Urban Oasis Landscape Design in Los Angeles, California, works specifically to design landscapes that feature both sustainable and functional aspects. More often than not, clients are unaware of the true potential their space has until Gliksman steps in to show them what they are missing out on.
Gliksman notes that California real estate is fairly expensive, therefore she takes great care to ensure her clients are able to take full advantage of every inch of space they have.
Time and time again, she’s had customers not using areas of their landscape for one reason or another, and after realizing that the formerly rundown space can now be used for something attractive, her clients spend much more time outdoors.
Running with the Field of Dreams philosophy, Gliksman said she goes out of her way to find these abandoned areas of the landscape and recreate them into a gathering place everyone will flock to.
As far as what will be necessary on your part when coming into a usability design project, Gliksman said there really is no set idea; it’s all dependent upon the customer’s wants and the available space.
A total site analysis of the space, she said, is absolutely essential before offering any design ideas, and following this, she recommends taking time to sit with the clients and talk through any ideas they’ve had regarding their landscape.
As a California landscaper, Gliksman said she is very familiar with dealing with the overwhelming droughts the state often faces, as well as the constant dry climate. Since lawns are the biggest water user in the space, one main goal Gliksman said she tries to accomplish with every project she works on is to either significantly reduce the size of the lawn, remove it completely or remove it and replace it with an alternative that won’t require as much water.
Since customers in her area are more open to the ideas of sustainable and usable landscaping, Gliksman said she never really encounters any customers unwilling to work with her lawn removal, replacement or reduction ideas.
Notable projects and advice
While there have been many successful projects in her career, both in the way of sustainability and usability, Gliksman recalled two specific instances that really stood out to her.
One project, which ultimately ended up doubling as both sustainable and usable, took place on top of an old, cracked blacktop. The surface had served as an abandoned area in the client’s landscape for many years.
From this approximately 50 by 25-foot area, Gliksman said she was able to create a large, elevated dining pavilion, along with a collection of raised beds and fruit trees that allowed her client the opportunity to grow and prepare his own produce.
Another standout project Gliksman recalled took place at a residence in Manhattan Beach, California. At this home, she said the clients had a pool that was no longer in use and was taking up too much valuable space, as well as costing money in maintenance.
With this space, Gliksman said she was able to create an outdoor kitchen that featured a covered dining area, a covered fire pit complete with built-in benches, an open patio, a swing and an entire garden.
“I really liked the way I managed to make so much use out of that small space,” she said. “Anything they want to do out there, as far as lounging, (they can do).”
For other landscapers desiring to add more sustainability practices or usability designs to their service list, Gliksman only had one piece of advice: educate yourself through courses and seminars.
“There is quite a lot to learn; it’s not the same as it used to be,” she said. “So, I think you really just have to learn about it and network with other designers, share with them, they share with you and learn how to do it.”