West Meadows Residence


Set within the high elevation windswept grassland of Southwest Colorado, the 220-acre property is surrounded by expansive views to Telluride’s most iconic peaks and rolling vistas. An existing residence in a neighborhood that had been subdivided with intrusive earthwork, the challenge was to return the property to its natural, resilient character within a myriad of site and environmental hurdles. The project aims to not only understand, but respect the larger scale environmental factors such as elevation, weather and wildlife that contribute to the ecosystem of the landscape. The design mirrored natural riparian systems to restore two ponds, distill the palette of formal and native plantings around the residence, and create authentic amenity spaces that complement the experience of a luxurious residence in the west. A true collaboration between client, design team and contractor, the landscape and ecological specialists maintained an adaptable process over the course of several years to bring the property back to its ecological integrity.


Purpose and Approach

This 220-acre property sits at 10,000 feet in elevation in an exclusive area of Telluride that is characterized by large lots with streams, ponds, and grassy meadows with trail connections to the regional system. While beautiful, the environment is unforgiving with challenging factors such as extreme heat, dry spells, snowfall as late as June, and migrating elk each year. To create a resilient design in this context, the design had to be adaptive and flexible, responding to what physically survived from year to year. Plant species selection was critical, as the team worked with resilient seed mixes that were able to fluctuate with high and low temperatures. To honor and embrace the setting, the intent of the design was to transition from a formal planting plan at the residence to the native riparian vegetation around the ponds and into the surrounding natural areas.


Critical to the success was the ability of the team to collaborate across disciplines to restore the health of the entire property and create a well-functioning landscape that transitions from the formal residence to the natural surrounding forest. The diverse team led by the landscape architect used an integrated approach with specialized civil engineers, architects, landscape restoration contractors, irrigation system and pump designers, and experts versed in sourcing plants locally so they would be less stressed at that elevation.

The close working relationship between the landscape architect, in house ecologists, and the team of contractors was maintained year after year to in order to get to the desired final product. It wasn’t a design that lived on paper – the team took a hands-on approach to implement, assess and adjust based on specific site conditions. The position of trees to act as shelter from the wind and the play between shade and sun were design tools. The landscape architect was heavily involved in the selection and hand placement of plants to ensure sustained growth and healthy maturation, season over season. As ecologists and landscape architects working together, the project benefitted from an approach grounded in natural systems to ensure its sustainability and resilience.


It is challenging to build on this windswept high elevation grassland system with exposed limestone and a microclimate of heat, wind, and soil acidity. On the western portion of the site sits the main house and pond, where the client wanted to steer away from the cottage garden look toward a more naturalized pattern reflective of how wild plants grow, but in more ornamental beds. The team met the challenge by renovating the planting around the entire residence with large areas of plant materials of the same species to build vegetative resiliency against the harsh climate. On the eastern portion of the site is a pond, garage, pumphouse and space for a future residence. There the team restored the pond back to its native character with specified riparian seed mixes that withstand the exposed landscape.

Special Factors

  • Environment – Sites in high elevations are always in flux. They are impacted by high wind exposure, rapid temperature changes, limited growing seasons, regional species viability, and the remote location. The mountain environment also presented difficult constraints in grading and construction. From voles and insects that ate everything in their path to early snowfall and brutal wind drifts that took out large portions of the perennial beds, the challenges were constant and often disheartening. It was a true study in fine tuning and persistence to learn from each step and adjust to onsite conditions.
  • Wildlife – After the first year of the installation, the team worked closely with the client and contractor to reintroduce species into the landscape that had been lost to unforeseen pests. The team collaborated to select species that would withstand future issues. The property also straddles an elk migration corridor, which was a significant wildlife and agricultural challenge. The team designed over two miles of specialized fencing that achieved multiple goals to direct the herd, preserve views, and keep the neighbors happy. Hand staked aspen stands created shelter from the high winds.
  • Plant Selection – The challenging environment of the property meant plant selection was critical. The team introduced and merged the native landscape into the ornamental plantings through the use of “native fingers”. The fingers acted as transitional zones to make it easier for differing flora to become more accustomed with one another. Larger swaths of plant materials of the same species built vegetative resiliency against the harsh climate. Each plant was selected based on characteristics such as seasonality, height, color, texture, and sun/shade viability to ensure that it would thrive the designated environment. The addition of grasses was a successful design solution to slowly transition from the formal house beds into the more native landscape beyond.
  • Pond Restoration – Working within the West Meadows and County guidelines and interfacing with a water attorney, the team produced schematic land planning design for the layout and grading of both ponds. Intense riparian restoration was needed to create a healthy system that also expanded on wetlands, waterway connections, the dock amenity, and residential access. Studies of the pond areas included water supply, existing pump vaults, retention walls, trails, lighting, and wetland planting.  The goal was to achieve pond development while not impacting the undeveloped building envelope for a future residence. This effort was successfully completed, which in the end also helped to protect the water rights of the site owner. The team completely restored the native wetland to establish a thriving habitat and stabilize the banks. Noxious aquatic weeds were removed and restoration efforts included seeding, planting, and layout of a large aspen forest to improve habitat and screen the property.


Environmental Sensitivity and Sustainability

The team worked meticulously on site to ensure a thriving palate of vegetation and created a long-term plan for the care and maintenance of the arboricultural resources on the property. Various stands of native forest were analyzed with a series of recommendations and actions to promote healthy and diverse ecology. The team inventoried over 800 trees and identified health, irrigation, soil, and pruning needs for each individual tree, as well as classifications of general recommendations for various trees types. A weed management and treatment plan were also produced to control and mange invasive and undesirable vegetation. This plan was outlined in a document that creates a long-term plan for the care and maintenance of the property.


Large tracts of land require a holistic approach to review and inventory the natural, ecological, forestry, wildlife, water, vegetation, and cultural resources to help facilitate a plan and identify immediate, and future needs. Our job was to celebrate the iconic western landscape by restoring its integrity and resource significance with careful planning and implementation of these strategies. Ultimately the landscape architect acts as a therapist for the landscape. We assess what is working and what isn’t, and we help return it to health. Often, the design ends once the plans are handed to the contractor, but this project was a unique and long-term relationship between the owner, the design team and the land itself. How we understand and react to the extreme environmental factors and the care taken to foster that landscape is an immeasurable contribution to the entire ecosystem where humans and natural systems find balance to live together.

Plant List

  • Alpine Blue Grass
  • Mountain Bromegrass
  • Sheep Fescue
  • Tufted Hair Grass
  • Streambank Wheatgrass
  • Slender Wheatgrass
  • Blue Wild Rye
  • Siberian Wallflower
  • Lupine
  • Mountain Gold Banner
  • Gallardia
  • Sweet William Pinks
  • Rocky Mountain Penstemon
  • Blue Flax
  • Annual Baby’s Breath
  • Cornflower
  • Purple Coneflower
  • California Poppy
  • Corn Poppy
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Dwarf Columbine
  • White Yarrow
  • Alpine Blue Grass
  • Mountain Bromegrass
  • Orchard Grass
  • Meadow Bromegrass
  • Streambank Wheatgrass
  • Western Wheatgrass

Documents and Media

Planning Docs (if applicable):