Initial Site Visit and Client Interview
Shades of Green Landscaping received a call for ‘Help‘ – a potentially lovely back yard, but too overwhelming for the clients to tackle.
Representing Shades of Green Landscaping, Cheryl Parke met with the Dores and consulted on how to renovate the yard.
The Dores had a back yard that was completely overgrown with too many trees and shrubs that were planted all over the yard, not just along the periphery – like at most yards – you couldn’t see or walk out into it very well except for small openings to the lawn area from the deck and the gate. These plants were like islands in the grass and there was no place that was just an open, usable lawn area. There was a 30″ tall rockery that completely split the yard into upper and lower halves – getting to the upper area could only be done via a steep, grassy ramp off of the deck….or a climb ‘up and over’ the sharp boulders! This was dangerous, unsightly, and almost impossible to navigate the lawn mower to the area.
The deck was rotting and just a plain, uninteresting square area with built-in seats and rails that made doing maintenance along much of the rockery quite difficult.
The plantings along the house were planted much too close to the house or were not the right plants to use at all and were unsightly for every season.
This was definitely a yard in need of a clean slate!
The Dores had compiled a list of things they wanted for their yard:
- Open it up visually, so that you could see all of it easily from the windows and walk comfortably throughout each area
- Create great closeup views or spaces outside their dining room and the office area – they had both started working from home, using these rooms as offices, so it was important to be able to look outside and see something pleasing from these windows.
- Easier accessibility between the upper and lower yards, both for people, their aging dog, and the lawn mower
- Get rid of most of the plants, which were extremely overgrown
- Create spaces for guests/entertaining, a contemplation area/place to relax your mind for a while – somewhere small and shady, outdoor grilling and eating area, lounging area(s) that could be moved, depending on the heat/sun/time of day and still enjoy the view
- Places for lots of flower pots
- They loved the suggestion of a waterfall and pond, especially when they saw how their topography was perfect for such a project – the rockery would provide many of the necessary boulders used on the project. Since they were both now home for most weekdays, it could easily be justified as providing a great working environment for them.
- Ease of maintenance
- Irrigation system
The Dores did not know of any particular plants they would like, as long as they were not high maintenance, and, if possible, have a little Asian flair. Things such as colors, fragrances, time of bloom, and size were discussed and noted. Basically, they liked the idea of these attributes, but they had no definite ideas on them. Cheryl made several suggestions and offered some thumbnail sketches of various possibilities for the yard, which enthused the Dores and made them see that there was great potential. The Dores asked Shades of Green Landscaping to draw a Landscape Plan for their back yard.
Design and Installation
Cheryl Parke took photos and measurements of the back yard and then drew a scaled Landscape Plan, using the impressions, ideas, and items the Dores requested for their back yard.
The first thing that would need to be considered is that the back yard would become ‘a clean slate’, except for a few privacy Leland Cypresses along the back fence, a dogwood tree along the north fence, and a laurel bush at the NE corner of the house …. everything else would be dug up and removed – the plants were too tangled and overgrown to be transplanted to another place in the yard.
Knowing that the Dores wanted great views from their office windows, the design created had a butterfly/hummingbird garden in front of the dining room window with a small birdbath centered in the area. It was planted with Mexican orange for long-lasting spring and summer blooms, sweet fragrance, and lots of perennials that attract butterflies and hummingbirds: hardy fuchsia, salvia, coreopsis, crocosmia. Also, there is a border of purple-flowering winter heath (Erica ‘Kramer’s Red’) to brighten up gloomy winter days.
The office window on the north side was opened up to replace the window with French doors with a few steps down to the secluded, shady patio that would hold a bistro table and chairs. This area still offered views to the back yard, but through a narrow corridor of plantings and a curving concrete pathway … at the end of the view corridor, is a small vista of the waterfall and pond. The shed was no longer needed, so it was totally removed.
The location and size of the waterfall/stream and pond was determined and places for mini-falls, rapids, and drops placed at appropriate points. The Dores wanted to include some special rocks they had collected on their various trips and these were incorporated into the design. Also, it was suggested using some very low profile flat boulders along the patio and pond connection – a great place to sit upon and dip your feet into the water.
Next, was addressing the egress from the house to the outdoors. The original deck was 3 steps higher than the ground level, so deciding on a deck or patio area was important. It was decided a patio would be less expensive and both small and larger areas could easily be created in concrete that connected these various use areas easily and flowed along the house, always with a great view of the main feature, the waterfall and pond. Three concrete steps from a comfortable landing at the slider would be the new way to the ground level.
After the ‘dividing line’ of the rockery was no longer part of the layout, creating a pleasing and usable flow of lawn and places for appropriate plantings became much easier without the restrictions of ‘the line’. An inviting, curved staircase was designed to very casually lead up to the higher level. This was straight out from the sliding glass doors between the dining area and the pond. The sloped bank created by this change in topography provided a beautiful opportunity to create a rock garden of low, colorful and often fragrant plantings, that wraps around and helps define this intimate seating area. The stepped area is low-profile enough so there are still great views between the dining and waterfall areas. For ease of mower access, the lawn was sloped to connect the upper and lower areas along the south side of the property.
The other areas on the new patio provide great spots to place chaise lounges – for the best sun, views, or quiet spot for reading a book.
The plants chosen for this project are mostly low, except for peripheral plantings. The trees remaining along the edges of their yard and trees in adjacent yards provide plenty of height, privacy and interesting shadow patterns. The plants are a mix of various textures and colors that appear at different times of the year….winter heath, laceleaf maple, flax, dwarf varieties of escallonia, pieris, pines, ornamental grasses, heuchera, variegated willow, and a clumping black bamboo…. many of them are also used in Asian gardens. In addition to these, the Dores enjoying filling the many planters and pots they have acquired since the project with billowing flowers and tucking these into the little spaces around the boulders and entry to the staircase. While it has not yet been done, there is another spot near the top of the falls for installing a bench – while I’m sure it would be used by the Dores, if it never was it would still provide a lovely visual destination and be a place that makes you want to go there.
After seeing and hearing the presentation of the Landscape Plan, the Dores asked Shades of Green Landscaping to install the plan presented to them at their home. As shown in these photos, the Dores’ once overgrown and out-of-control back yard has been transformed into a lovely haven to relax, entertain, view from their office windows, enjoy the butterflies and hummingbirds, dine, have morning coffee or an evening conversation as the sun sets on their yard and the night lighting adds a new look.
Since the completion of the back yard project Shades of Green Landscaping has since designed, created, and installed a new front entry courtyard seen from the large living room which includes a brick retaining wall that matches the brick trim on the front of their house, a small water feature, small paved patio for seating, flower pots, and many fragrant plantings. Even though it is part of the front entry, it is quite private and the sounds from the water feature add a very relaxing feel.
A more formal feel to the Dore’s front yard and new entry (hidden from street). We worked with a masonry specialist to install the brick wall system we designed. The small entry courtyard is elevated by the brick wall seen from the front and offers a welcome to visitors and a great view from the living room. A perfect place to watch the sunset or kids ride their bikes in the cul-de-sac.