The Trottos called Shades of Green Landscaping in need of some ideas for their very boring and impossible-to-maintain side yard of the house they had recently bought. They were just anticipating some lawn on each of the two levels the bulldozer had created using the huge rocks that were uncovered when the ground was excavated for the foundation of the house….these rocks were simply pushed together in a very unaesthetic line. The ‘lawn’ was all weeds and very lumpy. They also wanted a place to grow a garden – it is a very sunny area, so that would be easy to achieve. Hopefully, there would be some peripheral beds for some pretty plantings.
Initial Site Visit and Consultation
Cheryl Parke came out to see the site and conduct the client interview. Cheryl learned that the Trottos have a great love and knowledge of plants, find nursery trips are fun, enjoy gardening, and don’t mind maintaining a yard. Cheryl did her client interview and found the Trottos were quite open to many of the ideas mentioned; in fact, many were things they had thought of, but just weren’t sure the yard could be transformed into the ideas they had. These included a waterfall and pond, a patio and fire pit area in the sun that transitioned well from the porch (all they had was a shady, covered porch), a chicken coop, the garden area, some fruit trees, and an improved and safer way between the upper and lower yards. And, of course places for really neat plants!!! In addition, they wanted a Secret Garden for their young daughter to play and that it be a special place for her.
The Trottos loved the ideas discussed and were excited at the potential their yard had and requested Shades of Green Landscaping/ Cheryl to design the yard. She got photos, took measurements and did the design based on the client interview and the site.
Design and Installation
The main challenge in the design was to redo the existing block staircase that connected the upper and lower parts of the back yard. There were 20 steps, with no landings, and tapered tread widths (ranging from 6-12″) because of the staircase’s curvature. In addition, the steps had never been anchored when originally installed or any type of proper base prepared for the steps, so they had pulled apart from one another and been undercut by water erosion….. many were just resting on loose, uneven soil – they were very dangerous and probably a bad fall waiting to happen. Fortunately, the lower yard had plenty of room to extend into that area to be able to make wider steps with a some landings. Much of the existing retaining walls needed to be dismantled in order to tie the walls and newly set steps together. This project was done and the new steps had cut-to-fit capstones, a much nicer look. The original tall block walls on either side of the steps were lowered substantially and several of the upper rows of the wall were tied back into the ground. You no longer have the feeling of being in a tight chute or tentative about not having something to grasp while using the steps …. now, the lower walls provide that feeling of safety, and the new steps are beautiful and solid.
The original finish building grader actually did us a favor by establishing 2 levels on the side yard and making so many huge boulders available – all lined up in a row. Once we cleared and graded, we had generated enough soil to make a mound approximately 4′ high – a perfect starting point for a waterfall to be seen from the house, covered porch, upper yard and patio…. serendipity! Additional boulders were brought in, both for creating the waterfall and pond, but as outcrops on the slopes and in the beds. A semi-circular cut paver patio was designed a step down from the porch, centered on the opening of the porch’s railing. On the back side, the ground was excavated to a 24″ vertical face – perfect for a seating wall! Above the curved wall is a trellis where wonderfully fragrant evergreen clematis were planted.
The patio serves as a nice sunny gathering place; it also intersects with several ‘paths’ – to the garden/gate to front yard, to the chicken coop, and to the new steps that lead down to the lower yard. Because of the configuration of the patio and to allow part of the pond be close to the porch, a bridge was added that crosses the pond and connects to the top of the new steps….this allowed more horizontal room on the top side of the yard than the steps’ original layout. There is even a rock slab staircase shortcut to the lawn area and Secret Garden
The patio has a terrific view of the waterfall and pond, which is set at a diagonal in relation to the property lines, adding interest by breaking up the parallel and :perpendicular lines that had been there earlier.
There is a Secret Garden in the SE corner of the lot, between the fences and the back of the waterfall retaining wall – there is a terrific view looking down from the top of the waterfall from there and the mature, native dogwood adds dappled light to the area.
The lawn area is on the upper side of the side yard and quite usable for yard games – croquet, badminton, volleyball, frisbee tossing…..
The plantings included many that are specimens or not very common, which the Trottos appreciated – Umbrella Pine, ‘Anniversary’ Dwarf Abelia, Japanese Fragrant Snowbell, ‘Aztec’ Mexican Orange, ‘Flamingo’ NZ Flax, Variegated Forsythia, Fernleaf Burning Bush, ‘Wheeler’s Dwarf’ Pittosporum, ‘Tiger’s Eye’ Sumac, and more.
Every year, the Trottos have a wonderful garden – a veggie area, herb pots, a blueberry and strawberry patch, and the 3 fruit trees are producing more every year as they grow.
Irrigation and night lighting were added as we progressed with the various areas.
When we were finished with the project, the last of the deciduous leaves were falling, it was hard to remember how different the yard was 6-7 weeks earlier, on a warm early fall afternoon….Luckily, there are photos, as it is an amazing difference! In the years following, the yard has only gotten nicer as it matures. The Trottos are thrilled and plan to enjoy their haven for years to come….what a fun job to do! I am hoping to take photos every few years and will update this page as I do.