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Coyote House ©Andrea Jones/courtesy Van Atta Associates

The LEED Platinum California home of architect Ken Radtkey and landscape architect Susan Van Atta is integrated into an ingenious landscape design featuring a stucco turret topped with solar panels, a green roof shading a sitting terrace, rainwater catchment system and underground water-storage tanks, and other sustainable features. Photo: Andrea Jones.

Think that solar panels are at odds with beautiful design? Think again!

Julie’s latest New Homestead article, “Harvesting the Sun,”  in the current (Oct/Nov 2013) issue of Organic Gardening Magazine deals with solar panels in the home landscape. Julie profiles a northern California project, the home of architect Ken Radtkey and landscape architect Susan Van Atta, which demonstrates that a design incorporating solar panels and a host of other sustainability features can be not only innovative but stunning.

Cover, Organic Gardening Magazine, October-November 2013

With gorgeous photographs by Andrea Jones, the article also offers tips for how to deploy solar panels most efficiently and how to soften their appearance  pleasingly, as shown with the green-rooftop hot-water panels below.


Solar panels and green roof. Design by Martin Gould. Photo by Andrea Jones.

Hot-water solar panels on a green roof, complemented by red yarrow, aubretia, sedums, and dianthus. Design: Martin Gould at The Waterhouse, Scotland, UK. Photo: Andrea Jones.

With a rapidly changing market striving to keep up with people’s needs (both practical and aesthetic), the solar industry continually brings out new products that challenge and stimulate designers’ imaginations. There are solar-powered garden ornaments of all kinds, including fountains, stepping stones, crystal gazing balls, and more. The mini-panels now available can even be used as landscape focal points, accented by ornamental grasses and other plantings.

Mini solar panels. Photo by Andrea Jones.

Mini solar-panels set on slender steel poles reach for the light just above tall ornamental grasses planted in the leftover spaces formed by long planks set over gravel. Photo: Andrea Jones.

For more details, read the article, “Harvesting the Sun.” For all of Julie’s New Homestead articles and a wealth of practical and inspiring content, subscribe to Organic Gardening!