Custom Residential Landscape Contractor providing
Ecological Landscape Design & Landscape Installation

650.265.7596          408.331.1983




Thank you for making
our custom-built home look unique.”
—Almaden Valley Client

Sustainable Landscaping

Impact of Traditional Landscaping   :   Sustainable Landscaping Principles   :   Sustainable Landscape Standards
Sustainable Landscape Practices   :   Why Loose Lawns?


Sustainable Landscaping has proven significant economic, health and environmental benefits. Hortus Design Sustainable Landscapes has adopted an ecological approach to landscaping and is committed to developing sustainable design and installation methods for renovations and/or new landscapes by utilizing the five principles of sustainability i.e., functional, maintainable, environmentally sound, cost effective, and visually pleasing.


  • Creates air, noise, water pollution
  • Promotes flood damage/erosion
  • Harmful to biodiversity
  • Excessive consumption of natural resources
  • Negative effects on public health and safety
  • Costly and labor intensive
  • Lacks variety



  • Reducing or preventing pollution
  • Conserving natural resources like labor, water, fertilizers etc.
  • Maximizing ecological functions to enhance wild life habitat, organic food, family fun
  • Attractive naturalistic landscapes with low water requiring & low-maintenance plants to save water and time
  • Recycle and reuse landscape materials wherever possible
  • Avoid using toxic chemicals if possible, reducing exposure to injury, and preventing toxic run-off to storm drains and water bodies
  • Grass cycling, composting and mulching to enhance the soil structure
  • Proper watering, fertilizing, and pruning along with Integrated Pest Management


Hortus Design Sustainable Landscapes supports and promotes proactive ecological change. We constantly strive to reduce the negative environmental impacts of landscaping work and make sure that our actions are consistent with our philosophy. We follow the following standards and practices wherever it is practical to do so while installing your project, unless you choose different methods. If traditional methods are counter-productive, we can counsel you about alternate sustainable methods.

While landscaping has many positive benefits there are some unavoidable negative effects. We will make every best effort to reduce these effects.

Below are the standards we hold our employees and subcontractors accountable to. Please read them. We welcome your suggestions for any improvement.


Site Materials We try to obtain paving stone and boulders from responsible sources. We try not to use harvested materials from intact natural ecosystems. We do not obtain soil from natural areas. To our knowledge, we ensure that our suppliers are environmentally conscious and protect the earth against erosion and other environmental damage in the course of their operations, and that the product is free of toxins and non-degradable waste.

Lumber & Salvaged Materials We try to use certified sustainably harvested lumber and wood products exclusively when they are available. Advise if certified materials will not be used for part or for the entire project. We counsel our clients about alternatives such as recycled plastic lumber, Trex, salvaged lumber or wood harvested from urban forests.

Non-toxic & Organic Materials We do not use any pesticides on any project without prior consent. We will read the labels carefully to be sure of content. We shall minimize the use of Roundup to control weeds. Where practicable, use organic herbicides which are derivatives of organic sources like corn gluten, citric acid, garlic, thyme and clove oils, acetic acid etc. We will try use alternative control by hand weeding, grubbing, mulching, or other organic herbicides. We will seek your opinion about specific weed control practices prior to bidding.

Plant Material We will try to choose California native and drought tolerant plant material wherever applicable and if you approve them. We shall try to obtain plants from nurseries practicing integrated pest and disease management and protect air, soil and water bodies from pollution in the process of growing plants. We will not purchase plants that are dug from the wild and natural environments.

Compost and Other Organic Materials All fertilizers used by us are 100% derivatives of non-chemical sources, i.e. “organic” fertilizers such as compost tea, super humus compost, wheeler farms compost, Gro-Power, Dr. Earth, Whitney Farms. We will avoid materials that are contaminated with significant non-degradable waste, detectable chemicals, etc. Other chemical fertilizers are acceptable if authorized prior to bidding. We will purchase organic materials from responsible sources.



Storage, Reusing, Recycling & Disposal Wherever applicable create area onsite to facilitate storage of materials to be reused. Whenever possible, reuse materials such as drip tubing, lumber cutoffs, etc. Wherever applicable, leave chipped organic material on site to be used as mulch. We will recycle all green waste, broken concrete, asphalt and wood products in an approved manner. We shall dispose all waste materials in an approved facility.

Grading & Drainage We make provisions for erosion control when working on slopes, to reduce impact on water and air and to prevent silting of waterways. We will use appropriate grading practices, soil binding agents, erosion control fabrics, drainage systems, approved cover crops, silt fences, and other practices agreed upon in advance of bidding. We will prevent load on existing storm drains.

Water Management & Irrigation Practices We will protect all water bodies from damage. We will not allow employees to use creeks as restrooms. We will provide portable toilets where other facilities are not available. We do not allow any irrigation system to overspray planted areas or to generate significant spray drift or runoff. We do not allow any irrigation within at least 6-8 feet of the trunk of any native oak tree. We will include in all bids two follow-up visits to reprogram and modify controller(s) and watering schedule as required by maturing plantings and seasonal changes. We will utilize gray water wherever applicable.

Existing Soil & Plants We will retain, preserve, and reuse all top soil onsite as far as possible. We protect all existing vegetation that is chosen to remain from damage, including damage to the root zone. We do not park vehicles or equipment, or store heavy materials within the root zone of trees. We locate all staging areas away from trees. We do not trench within the drip line of any mature tree without prior approval. Where necessary, we install protective fencing at the drip line of mature trees. We do not prune existing plants without prior approval.

On Site Management We minimize the use of power equipment and operate equipment within community guidelines and follow reasonable hours of operation. We do not plan to use radios and blowers unless approved in advance. We do not store hazardous materials on site. We maintain a clean site at all times during the project. We follow approved standard dust control methods during grading and dirt-moving operations. All off-road equipment are operated at slow speeds to avoid dust.

Equipment & Energy Use We use low-energy, low polluting equipment during operation. We minimize the use of diesel or gasoline-driven power equipment. We do not use any product containing volatile organic compounds (pesticides, oil-based paints, other petroleum-based products) without prior approval. Where it is not cost-prohibitive, we use electric or hand tools.

Employee’s Rights We fully comply with OSHA standards and all legally-required fair employment practices, including anti-discrimination laws and all federal, state and local employee laws and regulations. We provide a workplace that is safe for workers, clients and others. We pay all workers a living wage.



  • Waste of scarce resources like water, labor, chemicals, gas and fertilizers
  • Noise, water, chemical pollution and injuries to health
  • Water run-off, erosion, flooding & destruction of bio-diversity
  • Costly and labor intensive to maintain especially in the front yards where there is no use
For more details about the statistics of maintaining lawns and the benefits of sustainable landscaping, please read the articles linked below.

Sustainable Landscaping
Economic Benefits of River-friendly Landscaping


Hortus Design is a Sustainable Landscape Design, Build & Maintenance company.

We specialize in Low Maintenance Landscapes, California Native Gardens, Lawn Alternative & Water-efficient Gardens.
Santa Clara, San Jose, Willow Glen, Almaden Valley, Saratoga, Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View
Atherton, Palo Alto, Stanford, Menlo Park, San Carlos, Belmont, Burlingame, Portola Valley, Ladera, Emerald Hills, Foster City, San Mateo, Hillsborough, Redwood City, Redwood Shores, Woodside