Weatherwood Design's Sustainable Efforts in Garden Design and Woodworking
By Michelle Glitzer ’20, marketing and communications intern
Gene Huntington, a Delaware Valley University faculty member, has been exposing students in his sustainability class to the importance of caring for the environment. Rather than just information about topics such as invasive species and biodiversity, Huntington – or as his students call him, “Coach” – wants his students to take away life lessons from his class.
As a way to show his students how sustainability efforts can be used in landscape architecture, Huntington connected his students with his friend, David Hughes. Hughes is a local landscape architect and rustic furniture artist in Bucks County.
“In giving sustainability students this extra credit, my hope is that they experience firsthand sustainable practices such as rainwater harvesting, pollinator meadows, furniture made from invasive trees… all while enjoying a great fall day outside,” said Huntington. “Students will have the chance to go beyond the textbook here by immersing themselves in the landscape and meeting the designer.”
Hughes had an open house for his landscape architectural consulting firm, Weatherwood Design, which students attended to learn more about his sustainable practices. This property, located near Pipersville, displays his passion for resilient garden design and furniture making. Visitors, particularly the sustainability students who visited the open house, were able to see how they can live to be more in-tune with nature.
“I want to be able to demonstrate ways in which we humans can coexist and flourish with our lifestyle and health requirements in association to the land and the majority of its organisms,” said Hughes.
Hughes is a lover of nature and of being outdoors – his woodworking and landscape architecture firm allows him to use his creativity while also being immersed in nature. The principle that he lives by both in his personal life and in his work is, “First, do no harm.” At Weatherwood, this principle is upheld by conservation landscaping efforts.
Hughes said he hopes to make a difference on his 4-acre plot of land and for his clients’ properties by “increasing the harmony with the rest of the wildlife and plants that can utilize it without destroying it or causing it harm through lower biodiversity.”
At the open house, Hughes identified native trees and explained to his guests the steps he is taking to remove invasive species on his property. The native landscape can easily be marred by invasive species and disturbances caused by humans. Restoring natives in the areas is one of Hughes’ priorities in garden design, as it creates a stronger and more resilient ecosystem.
The overabundance of deer in the Bucks County area can also cause problems to the landscape, specifically to the understory of forests. Hughes is taking action to protect his property by building his own kissing gates and deer fencing systems to keep deer out of his property. His kissing gates (a type of gate allowing only people, not animals, through) are an example of how Hughes combines his love of landscape architecture with his passion and talent for woodworking.
Hughes uses leftover wood from invasive trees, trees that have fallen from storm damage, and limbs from sites that were just going to be thrown into a wood chipper to create his masterpieces. This sustainable approach to furniture making is not only environmentally friendly, but it also makes his pieces extremely unique and adds a rustic flair to his artwork.
Hughes is even growing trees on his property to harvest for future furniture making. He only uses the old branches from these trees, allowing young ones to continue to grow. This is a woodland management technique known as “coppicing,” used to supply a long-term wood supply without interfering with the tree’s root system. Hughes stressed that he takes only what he needs for his woodworking without disrupting growth – a very sustainable practice.
At the Weatherwood open house, guests viewed Hughes’ furniture placed seamlessly throughout his garden as well as his supply of wood for future projects. Rain collectors could be spotted throughout the property, along with a natural meadow and substantial new growth of native trees in the garden.
On one of his sheds, a green roof structure has been planted using only native species. He grew these plants from locally collected seeds in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Weatherwood Design installed the green roof project in the summer of 2017 with the help of native plant nursery and ecological consulting firm Wild Ridge Plants.
All of these aspects of Hughes’ property emphasize the importance of caring for the environment and living in a sustainable manner.
“My goal is to give back to my community and to nature what others have taken away in the past,” said Hughes.