Second Nature

Landscape designer Damon Lang specializes in eco-friendly escapes

If anyone knows how to break the mold of generic outdoor living spaces that Las Vegas is known for, it’s Damon Lang.

Since launching his company Green Planet Landscaping Pools & Spa in 2000, Lang has transformed blasé backyards into beach-inspired retreats and barren patios into shiny, wraparound outdoor kitchens. He’s appeared on numerous reality-TV shows, lending his home-makeover expertise and eye for design to the Food Network’s All-Star Kitchen Makeover and DIY Network’s Kitchen Crashers and Yard Crashers, among others.

During an episode of DIY Network’s Desperate Landscapes, Lang helped convert illusionist Penn Jillette’s sprawling front yard into an outdoor fantasy land, complete with a shrub labyrinth, a one-of-a-kind water feature and a custom-made jigsaw puzzle playground for Jillette’s young children. And the best part? Many of the features used synthetic turf, colorful rocks and desert-appropriate foliage, requiring very little maintenance or water.

Although Lang is no stranger to designing elaborate pools and eye-catching fountains, he tries to incorporate water-saving aspects and easy-to-maintain landscapes whenever possible. “When people think ‘desert landscape,’ they think rocks and boulders,” Lang says. “I use a lot of agaves, barrel cactuses and different rock textures to create interest without having to solely depend on foliage.” His conservation efforts and innovative xeriscape designs have earned him numerous awards from the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the cooperative agency that manages our region’s limited water resources.

Keeping in line with his desire to offer environmentally sustainable options, a number of Lang’s backyard designs repurpose materials, such as smooth “sea glass” pebbles made from recycled glass, colorful countertops that were once broken vodka bottles, and synthetic wood constructed from recycled plastic and cast-off lumber. Lang’s eco-friendly designs can be found in his book The Sustainable Landscape (Schiffer Publishing 2010), along with Outdoor Spaces in the Southwest and New Ideas for Living Outdoors.

In addition to a need for water conservation, Las Vegas homeowners face a number of other challenges that are unique to our area. “Probably the most common thing that someone will mention to me in the first consultation is privacy,” Lang says, explaining that many homeowners feel that their low backyard walls and close proximity to neighbors can make backyards feel exposed. To create a sense of seclusion, Lang adds custom trellises for added wall height, unique covers, a row of trees along property perimeters or overhanging shade sails, which also can help add shade and reduce heat.

When Lang takes on a new project, the first meeting is at the clients’ home, where he can experience the outdoor living area, take measurements and learn about the homeowners’ style preferences. Many times, this is also where Lang can identify major issues firsthand and develop solutions. “One of my clients had a large hillside on the back area of his yard, and I noticed on top of it, he had an amazing view of the mountains and the Strip,” Lang says. “We engineered retaining walls to terrace the hillside and incorporated steps to bring you to the top, where a large patio and dining area awaits.”

Using 3-D software, Lang can show clients a rendering of their completed backyard—and what it will look like from various viewpoints in their home. At Lang’s office and design studio, clients also can see a range of materials and colors and get an estimate.

For many families, the cost is more than just an investment toward their property value—it’s a place to come together with friends and loved ones. “I still hear from [clients] constantly about how much they love entertaining in the backyard and how much it’s brought their family together,” Lang says.

Lang’s Three Solutions for Backyard Landscaping

Problem: My backyard is too hot during the summer.
Quick Fix: Install a pergola, patio cover or shade sail in the backyard, which can reduce the temperature by 25 degrees. Incorporating lattices into backyard structures can improve airflow and help reduce the heat as well.

Problem: My landscaping light bulbs need to be replaced too often.
Quick Fix: Many lighting companies offer LED-bulb replacement, as well as LED fixtures that have 15-year warranties. These replacements can reduce the number of light bulbs you have to replace and cut down energy costs.

Problem: I’m starting to notice pet odors on my artificial grass.
Quick Fix: If you have pets, you’ll want to set up a sprinkler system around the edges of your synthetic turf, with the valve scheduled to come on a few times a week. This can help with pet odors and keep your turf cooler in the summer.

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