"So much depends on how we see things."

John O'Donohue


Jessica Mary Land Arts (JMLA) aims to design landscapes that excite, inspire and invite us to feel at home in nature. Our mission is to translate the many languages of the wild into powerful visual poetry that yields lasting enjoyment, curiosity and affection for nature + place.  A landscape architecture and interpretive design firm, we serve clients in the public and private sectors, as well as other designers. JMLA is based in Carmel, California, and works nationwide. See featured projects below.

Site planning and design for a brewery on a certified organic hops farm

In collaboration with the architects at Moss Design (Chicago), JMLA engaged in site planning and landscape design for Buchanan Craft’s River St. Joe Brewery on Flatwater Farms in southwest Michigan. The new organic microbrewery integrates into this unique agricultural landscape, where hops trellises tower above remnant prairie in the rolling hills of Berrien County, fringed with oak woodland, just above the shoreline of the incredible St. Joseph River. An impressive variety of certified organic hops, grown on the farm, will fill the adjacent barn with their incredible aroma on their way into a farm fresh mircrobrew. With much of this landscape open for enjoyment of the farm, native prairie, and passive recreation, we are expanding on what the idea of a beer garden can be.


Backyard habitat

A diversity of plants enables a diversity of life.  Some of our beloved pollinators and insects in coastal California have coevolved with specific plants that they rely on throughout their life cycle...  The ceanothus silk moth, in its life stage as a caterpillar, feeds upon a few select native plants, including ceanothus, willow, ribes, malosma, arctostaphylos and prunus.  Adult moths, in contrast, are not even equipped with a digestive system – they emerge from their cocoons for mere hours, solely to mate!  These large moths are exquisite to behold..  Cultivating their host plants in your garden may offer you this special delight. 43% of butterfly and moth populations have been lost in the Bay Area due to habitat fragmentation. The good news is that, for many species, even a handful of host and nectar plants can provide all the habitat they need.  This sample landscape plan illustrates this consideration. JMLA wants to help you think of your garden as the basis of the food web – so many animals depend partially or entirely on insect protein for food, such that, according to E.O. Wilson, a land without insects would be a land without most higher forms of life.   

"We can align aesthetics and ecology by design."

Joan Nassauer, Placing Nature: Culture + Landscape Ecology

Interpretive signage for a coastal trail in the Santa Monica Mountains

Malibu is really owned by mountain lions! These interpretive panels were designed for a new section of pedestrian trail within the Santa Monica Mountains Local Coastal Zone. It was meaningful to bring a reminder of the native Chumash into these mountain landscapes they have called home for millennia, and the native and endemic flora and fauna are rich here beyond words. Each panel measures 24x 24,and will be displayed as a triptych on a simple wooden pedestal. Designed to look like large cyanotypes, or sun prints- this aesthetic is wonderful for capturing the diversity of textures and patterns of life in a unified presentation. These signs will look beautiful for years in the southern California sun, with UV protection. (Rana Creek project)

images copyright Rana Creek

Visualizing sea level rise for the Bay Area

Salt marshes are an endangered ecosystem. California has lost as much as 90% of its original marshland to agriculture and coastal development.  In advance of sea level rise, NOW is the time to reclaim this soft, fertile edge that once defined San Francisco’s beloved estuary.  Salt marshes support an astounding diversity of life, while also functioning to protect water quality, inhibit erosion, and create healthy floodplains. Because marsh plants grow rapidly, yet live in anaerobic soils with very slow rates of decay, salt marshes sequester and store large amounts of carbon. Within the tidal frame (the elevation range between the lowest and highest tides) signature plant species thrive in low, middle and high marsh zones according to factors such as water depth, duration and frequency of tidal inundation, drainage, salinity, and sediment supply. With sea levels rising, baylands should strive to accommodate vertical "marsh migration" along a gentle slope that will allow these habitat ranges to shift, while creating upland refuge that is critical for the survival of many endangered marsh animals during extreme high tides.  The San Francisco Bay Conservation + Development Commission (BCDC) has ambitious and urgent goals for marsh reclamation in the next few decades.  Past project experience utilizing GIS to inform salt marsh habitat design inspired these sample interpretive graphics from JMLA. We desire to aid in broad public education + interpretation of this extraordinarily beautiful habitat!


Salt marsh reclamation will restore endangered habitat and help San Francisco adapt to climate change.

Reclaiming dam spillway doors to honor wildlife in the Carmel River Watershed

Jessica consulted with the Carmel River Watershed Conservancy to brainstorm interpretation concepts for California's largest dam removal. The beautiful, massive steel doors that were once affixed to the spillway at the top of the 106-foot tall San Clemente Dam can realize a proud new purpose...  In this concept, each of the seven cities that source water from the Carmel River shall feature a segment of this historic steel infrastructure repurposed as a large, laser-cut tree grate to host one of seven species of trees found in the watershed - Western sycamore, red alder, coast live oak, madrone, big-leaf maple, California buckeye, and coast redwood.  A curvilinear cut running lengthwise through the steel will evoke the river, and allow native understory species to grow through. Inscribed through each grate will be the simple words: "WATER IS LIFE," in both English and in the native Esselen language. Furthermore, a substantial list of names of the wildlife species that thrive here, also in both languages, will be etched through the once-imposing steel, becoming the conduit for rainwater to nurture each tree. These tree grates will serve as a unique kind of memorial to the dam itself, as well as a tribute to all of the life that will benefit from the river flowing freely in the dams absence – from the insects and aquatic invertebrates at the base of the food chain, to the reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, rodents and mammals we know and love. The list will highlight both extinct animals, such as the grizzly bear, as well as the endangered species that demand our concerted and persistent care. These installations would provide a tangible, historic reminder of how the dam enabled the growth of these beloved cities, while reconnecting them to the the river itself.

Each tree will become a living reminder of the city's source of water...  

"Water is not a "resource," it is the source of life."

Krista Tippett quoting a Native American elder in an interview with Layli Long Soldier  

Desigining a habitat garden sign for the West Cook Wildlife Corridor

A habitat garden sign designed for the West Cook Wild Ones in Hinsdale, Illinois distinguishes native plant gardens that attract and provide for insects, birds, and wildlife; and which collectively enhance the larger West Cook Wildlife Corridor. A compass plant was chosen as a symbol for the immense hospitality this particular plant offers to bees, butterflies, and birds. These signs are intended to challenge perception around what is considered beautiful - and ask viewers to consider that a richly diverse and wild native home garden is beautiful both aesthetically and ecologically.

corridor sign.jpg


Cataloguing intertidal species of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

It is thrilling to explore the pattern language of the intertidal realm -- spiralling mollusks, radiating anemones, the five-point symmetry of echinoderms, the wave-born curves of algae -- all moving together in the most beautiful visual rhythm. This love of the limitless beauty found in the diversity of life's adaptations  inspires JMLA to offer custom pattern design to help bring site features alive -- furniture, planters, facades, awnings, sidewalks -- you name it. This laser-cut shell mandala on a wooden panel offers a much more unique way of cataloguing these mollusk species than a traditional linear, two-dimensional graphic. 

Designing a feather mandala on silk for wildfire relief and condor recovery  

In late summer of 2016, California's largest wildfire burned down the Big Sur Coast, taking 57 homes and one human life. Through Jay-Blue's sister company Anima California, Jessica designed this feather print on a 36"x36" silk scarf to help support Soberanes wildfire relief, and later to aid fundraising efforts for California condor recovery. No animal is more adept in the positive transformation of death and decay than the beloved, federally endangered condor. The brown pelican embodies resilience, as a once endangered species that has since been delisted, having made a comeback since the ban of DDT. It also lends the coolness of Pacific ocean water and air as a contrast to the heat of the wildfire. In the center, striking red-shouldered hawk feathers evoke the fierceness of thousands of fire fighters  - including the bravery of local volunteers through Mid-Coast Fire Brigade, Big Sur Fire Brigade, and Cachagua Fire, who spent months on the frontlines protecting their communities. The condor photo was graciously donated by Tim Huntington.

"Is it possible to acknowledge the realities of large-scale species extinction and yet to move beyond mourning, melanchoia, and nostalgia to a more affirmative vision of our biological future? Is it possible to move beyond the story templates of elegy and tragedy and yet to express continuing concern that nonhuman species not be harmed?" 

Urusla K. Heise, Imagining Extinction

Illustrating Fishtown's changing shoreline for a historic landscape report 

In collaboration through the Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio, with Dr. Laurie Sommers and Hopkins Burns Design Studio, The River Runs Through It: Report on Historic Structures + Site Design in the Fishtown Cultural Landscape was prepared for the Fishtown Preservation Society to help guide the future of this iconic waterfront. GIS was used extensively to map historic shoreline as well as fishing shoals.

images copyright The Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio

Bringing home to life

It is an honor to design residential landscapes on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula. There is no more sacred ground than home!

Carmel landscape.jpg