Initial Site Visit and Client Interview
The initial reason Shades of Green Landscaping was called by the Ericksons was for some help with the terrible drainage in their back yard and to improve on the existing layout by adding some plants.
This was a referral from a friend of the Ericksons, whom Shades of Green Landscaping had drawn a plan and done some landscape installation the year earlier.
A site inspection revealed uneven ground that had been poorly leveled, with a lot of low areas in the center of the yard, use of very heavy soil for initial landscaping, and raised flower beds impeding the flow of water. As a result, the lawn area was essentially gone, the grass roots were mostly rotted, and there was a heavy infestation of European Cranefly, who ‘love’ these wet conditions and find the connection of the lawn blades and their roots ‘gourmet’. The makeshift drainage trench that had been dug from a low point in the lawn to the lower native area to ameliorate the situation was not working.
It was clear by the lower topography to the west in the native area that achieving positive drainage was easily possible, but there would need to be some added drain lines and overall re-grading of the back yard lawn and planting areas.
After discussing the major problem of the drainage, the Ericksons and Cheryl discussed the overall backyard layout as far as aesthetics and function. They were not pleased with what they currently had and felt their yard had much more potential than what they had….they just did not know how to get started or create all the things they wanted in a pleasing way, or anything about the plants. The drainage job presented a chance to start ‘from a clean slate’ essentially , as all that would remain from the existing yard would be the rectangular patio, sports court, shed, hot tub, and fence …… and fortunately, these items were all along the perimeter of the site, so there was less restriction in changing the grade. All of the plants except for 4 large trees along the fences would be transplanted or removed.
The Ericksons still wanted plenty of lawn area for the children, but also wanted to be able to enjoy their yard both while outside as well as from the many rooms which look out onto the yard.
A list of ‘Wants’ included:
- Outdoor kitchen/counter area
- Fire pit
- Small Water Feature, both for the view and sound of the water
- Year round flowers or color
- Attract hummingbirds and butterflies
- Privacy from adjacent neighbors
- A welcoming place to entertain friends – both in small and large gatherings
- Interesting places and transitions, not just an open, rectangular lawn in middle, like they presently had
- Maintenance that did not require endless hours of time every week
The Ericksons asked Cheryl/Shades of Green Landscaping to proceed with a Master Landscape Plan for their back yard.
Design and Installation
The design shown incorporates all of the various features and elements requested by the clients as well as solving the drainage issues. By placing a large planting bed adjacent to the long length of the existing patio, the grade could be ‘lifted’ at that side and the lawn area be ’tilted’ at approximately 2% to drain to the native area in the background. Added underground pipes and strategically placed 3″grate inlets ensure water leaves the site.
It was established during the initial interview, that the existing 18′ x 40′ concrete patio would have to stay as is, as the expense of removal and then making a new paved or deck area in the same place could not be justified. Instead, usable areas were created within the large patio area or extending a little above/beyond it: an outdoor kitchen, gazebo, cozy sitting area, and a functional deck off of the large sliding glass doors would replace the existing tiny concrete slab they had for the stoop.
With the reduced feel of the concrete expanse, a cozy seating area was placed in the space between the hot tub and sliding doors. It offers a lovely overview of the whole back yard. Rather than keeping the dangerous and small concrete stoop that only crossed the span of one of the sliding doors and was a very small step/landing down from them, a larger 6′ x 10′ composite deck (matching the gazebo decking) was built at the same height as the sliders, allowing functional use, a place for herb or flower pots right off of the kitchen (convenient to both indoors and outdoors), as well as providing a much safer place to go into or exit the house…. not to mention just looking a whole lot nicer!
A 14′ x 14′ gazebo was built on a 45-degree angle across the NW corner of the patio and has a 7 1/2″ step up for interest and is a good break for transitioning into a decking floor from the concrete. The deck extends beyond the actual coverage of the gazebo roof on all sides 12-60″ so that furniture may be pushed out a little if there is a large gathering or so flower pots can be displayed in these areas. Occasionally, a temporary wall or screen can be placed on the NE side for mounting a large TV, speakers, screen, or just added privacy. There is a small, extended deck on the back side of the gazebo which was added during construction for additional overflow or just to pull a few chairs out and watch the sunset through the tree branches. It was discovered there is a wonderful view of the sunset from that spot ….. serendipity.
The once muddy and unappealing NW corner of the yard was replaced by a ‘destination’ – a paver patio, fire pit, seating wall area, that is reached via a winding paver path that leads from the back side of the gazebo and extended deck area. It can be viewed from most places in the yard, but the planting layout partially surrounds it, so it also has a more intimate feel. It is large enough for many to use, but also can have individual chairs pulled around the fire pit for just a few people. This area also incorporates the original flagpole and ‘elevates’ it with a ‘mezzanine level’ – making the flagpole more of a feature and perfect for added seating. It is especially effective in displaying red, white and blue flower pots around its base.
Plants were selected to be compatible, both horticulturally and visually, providing lots of varying texture, heights, color, and fragrance. Something is always ‘happening’ in the yard, with regards to the plants, whether it is the budding and flowering of the star magnolia in early spring, or the intense fragrance of the sarcococca during late winter, or daphne, Mexican orange, abelia and lilies throughout the Spring and Summer of the year, the dazzle and intense colors of the summer perennials, the autumn blaze of the burning bushes and maples, or the intense pinks/purples of the winter-blooming heaths. There are plants with berries or ones with leaf variegation of red, blue, or yellow foliage. The butterflies, dragonflies, and hummingbirds are almost always present in the warmer days, when the various blue/purple salvia, red/yellow/orange crocosmia, purple companula, blue agapanthus, yellow coreopsis, purple verbena, and hardy fuchsia varieties are in full bloom, and they often stop for a drink at the bubbling rock fountain.
Additional privacy from neighbors’ homes and yards was added using strategically placed trees or trellises incorporated into a feature design.
An irrigation system was added and besides the many festive LED lights on some of the tree branches and gazebo, there are lights on the underside of the capstones of the seating wall that cast light downwards across the paver patio as well as uplights/backlights on some of the plants, flagpole, and on the bubble rock. It is beautiful to see at night!
The maintenance is fairly minimal – regular mowing/edging, fertilizing and pruning once or twice a year, depending on the plant. Use of Preen once a year in Spring or just occasional weeding is done. There is nothing that requires special attention or chemicals. Ideally, the lawn will receive yearly lime applications in Fall and once it has established after several years, should have occasional aerating and de-thatching every few years.
The clients were very happy with the layout – they didn’t think they could get all the things they mentioned and still have a lot of lawn area remaining. There is still plenty of room to run, throw or kick a ball, set up yard games, and toss a frisbee. Even though the square footage of the lawn area is decreased from the original yard, the new lawn layout looks and feels so much larger and definitely is a lot more interesting! Every direction you look towards has something with color, interest, and beauty!
Please look at the Plan Drawing, and then look at the various pictures, especially the BEFORE & AFTER pictures, which were taken from the same spot in the yard.
The clients were thrilled with the results and look forward to adding the finishing touches in Phase II: the north side of the house development of a ‘secret garden’ and shady patio or deck (TBD), 3-4 overhead beams and trellises along the narrow entry walk from the front driveway (added in discussions during the project and not shown on the original plan) and around the hot tub. In the meantime, they are enjoying their back yard immensely – it has become ‘the place to go’ for both adult and children get-togethers …. and apparently, lots of use for Seahawk pre-game tailgating festivities….on even watching the game in the gazebo on the portable big screen when the weather is nice.