Few people can boast of having a meadow in their garden, but Amy and Lou Weiss can. They can also boast of having a garden so environmentally friendly that they are working on getting it LEED-certified.
At 1 p.m. Sunday, the Weiss "green" garden in Squirrel Hill will be one of six featured on the self-guided ORT Garden Tour. The tour, which will also include gardens in Regent Square and the Frick Park area, begins at 6570 Beacon St., where tickets can be purchased for $30.
Through the company Weisslines, the couple represents green flooring and high-finish products and has worked with some of the largest green buildings in the world. Their house, designed by Hugh Newell Jacobsen, is environmentally friendly and has a garden to match.
The view from their front door is an allee of American hornbeam, serviceberry and bayberry trees that screens them from cars on Beechwood Boulevard. Counting the inkberry and hemlock, the yard includes nearly 60 trees planted by landscaper John Dreher.
Mr. Dreher and landscape designer Joel LeGall debated which trees would work best.
"They would do battle back and forth with Latin names of this tree and that tree, and I'd say, 'Give me the English name of the tree! I don't know these Latin names,' " Mr. Weiss said.
In keeping with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, the trees are indigenous to the region and require very little watering. Their placement also complements the symmetrical design of the home.
"There's a lot of discipline in the garden, and it's very architectural," Mrs. Weiss said.
Except for two areas topped with hardwood mulch, the entire front yard and part of the side yard are covered with permeable gravel from Hoover Stone Quarry.
"It's low maintenance, the water goes through it into the ground and we like the look of it," Mr. Weiss explained.
In the backyard, gray quarry stone gives way to a lush expanse of No Mow grass that also requires minimal watering.
"The easier you are on the environment, the better off we'll all be. If you plant things that require a lot of watering, that's no good," Mr. Weiss said.
Last week, the garden accommodated more than 200 guests for their daughter's wedding. Rather than buying cut flowers, they used hydrangeas and herbs planted in silver tubs as the centerpieces. The 40 centerpiece plants will be replanted among the tall grass and wildflowers in the small meadow the couple began growing in the winter.
The wedding guests also ate from plates made out of leaves, which were later thrown into the composter. Eventually, hundreds of worms will turn them into rich soil. Made from sewer pipe, the composter is planted 3 feet into the ground in a corner of the raised vegetable and flower beds overlooking the kitchen.
The sweet smell of lavender wafts from one of the beds, while vegetables and various herbs including basil, rosemary and thyme fill the others.
"For dinner, Amy will look out the window, see what looks good and that's what she decides to make for dinner," Mr. Weiss said.
Mrs. Weiss recently harvested the seven types of lettuce she had grown, and planted tomato seeds in their place.
"We like tomatoes," she said. "We want to be able to eat tomatoes, basil -- lots of basil -- with mozzarella and a little olive oil."
A cistern beneath the garden beds provides the plants with harvested rainwater. It holds 4,000 gallons of water and also runs the toilets in the house. A windmill on top of a small silo in the backyard powers the exterior lights.
Although the Weisses' property covers 4 acres, most of it is a plunging hillside. The yard offers a breathtaking view of the Monongahela River and the former site of the Homestead Works.
The couple had originally planned to build seven houses on the property, but instead they donated a conservation easement to the North American Land Trust.
"[It] restricts what we can do in terms of taking down trees, and it preserves the view for the community," Mr. Weiss said.
Some of their other garden projects include a new water feature in the patio area and rescuing a large elm in the backyard by building a retaining wall around it. For their next project, they are considering raising chickens and installing a chicken coop.
Kitoko Chargois: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1088.