Nathan Marcusen believes three things: A landscape designer acts as a steward of the Earth, good design seeks to elevate the industry, and a landscape should be inheritable.
Stewardship over the Earth is a conscientious approach to meeting client’s needs and society’s needs at large, while preserving natural processes.
Designs elevate the industry by not using the same 10 plants in every design, incorporating native and xeric elements of the surrounding area, and providing clients with more environmentally sound plant options.
Inheritability is the future sustainability – allowing your children and grandchildren to enjoy the seeds you planted. These three elements work in tandem to inform each of Nathan’s designs, interactions with clients, and progression in the design industry.
During his early years, Nathan’s family moved into a new house in Eastern Washington. His mother asked each of her sons to pick out a house plant to fill the empty space by large windows. He chose an Hoya carnosa and was fascinated by its growth. 15 years later, the Hoya has completely taken over the archway into the living room. Through new purchases, cuttings, and trades with other horticulturally minded travelers the space by the windows is a full-grown greenhouse.
Nathan’s interest in plant life seemed always checked by water availability in the Columbia Basin, an irrigation project spearheaded by the US Government in the early 1940s. This water-consciousness of design proved its worth during an internship with All Seasons Landscaping. A major big-box retailer contracted All Seasons for the landscape design and construction of their first store in the region. From the start, the project faced two problems: 1) no naturally occurring water on the property 2) in order to pump significant amounts of water to the property, the city would have to dig up a road and extend the water main. Nathan pitched a xeric landscape to the project manager, who approached the client. The client loved it and as the installation was completed, the Mayor of the city congratulated All Seasons on what he felt was the future of landscape design in their drought-afflicted area.
Whether restricted by desert, economic situation, or urban living, Nathan understands not everyone has the luxury of a typical suburban back garden to prune and fuss over. Public green spaces are in serious need. Landscapes contain the power to rejuvenate, enliven and even feed people and other vital organisms in the food chain who spend time there. They should start a conversation before any words have been exchanged.
Contracted to design for a homeowner whose property backed onto a protected wetlands area, Nathan’s firm proactively reached out to the government organizations responsible for the space. They checked and cross-checked each plant option and made necessary design edits to ensure no invasive or non-native species could be introduced from the private property into the wetlands. This is basic stewardship, to take responsibility and follow through on doing what is best for the larger ecosystem.
Nathan’s designs subscribe to the “strength in numbers” philosophy and consistently show that low-maintenance design does not equal a monoculture. “The Stella D’oro Daylily is nearly bullet-proof,” Nathan exclaims often, “but it’s completely useless to pollinator species who are increasingly relying on urban landscapes to sustain themselves and the growing human population.” Even in high school, Nathan experienced first-hand the dangers of monoculture. In addition to the potager garden he designed, his family wanted to grow pumpkins. 100 feet to the east of the potager, he planted a healthy collection of pumpkin and squash. Within weeks of producing fruit, squash beetles moved in and decimated the crop. Meanwhile, the zucchinis and cucumbers planted among the diversity of the vegetable, herb, and wildflowers in the potager continued to thrive.
No matter the project, client, or personal interaction Nathan makes decisions consistent with these values and experiences. As a member of a design team, he brings a depth of knowledge and a conscientiousness unmatched by peers. He lives for cutting edge design, unique approaches to the usual problems and has found the best source of inspiration is Nature herself.
Feature article written by: Vanessa Oler
All Photography used is Copyright Nathan Marcusen