The log fire is blazing and although last nights frost has thawed the temperatures will soon begin to drop again. This is the time of year when I prefer enjoying my garden from inside the house – as do most of my clients.
A few months ago I was invited to design a garden in the Queen Anne district of Seattle. A mutual friend had suggested my name to the homeowner since I specialize in designing small spaces and as it happened he had also discovered my book FINE FOLIAGE which was on the coffee table when we met! He had carefully marked designs and plant combinations that appealed to him as well as one of my favorite gardens from the book – Harmony (pages 14-15) which was the main inspiration.
THE WISH LIST
When the client showed me this garden I was able to visualize what he had in mind in terms of a design style but knew I needed to extract its ‘essence’ and achieve a similar look on a smaller scale more suited to his own space. We agreed that the garden should have a naturalistic look with an emphasis on foliage and texture over flowers. The requested simplicity suggested a Japanese aesthetic without being cliche, yet also Pacific Northwest in style with layers of maples, shade loving ferns and mosses.
I was asked to create a focal point that could be enjoyed from inside the house – so important on days like today but something which should always be a design consideration. The garden also needed to be low maintenance and have year round interest. Can you see why I was so excited?
The existing wedge shaped garden didn’t have a lot going for it. The grass was dead, most of the existing trees and shrubs were beyond saving and the fence was falling down.
There was nowhere to sit and the view from the upstairs windows was the back of an overgrown Rhododendron. It was pretty much starting from scratch – the best sort of garden renovation from a designers perspective.
The placement of the focal point was important so I imagined a line running from the upstairs window to the back of the garden. That became an axis to which all other elements related. At the farthest point I created a series of concentric circles around a beautiful hand crafted urn. This connected to the main patio which was large enough for a comfortable bench and either a bistro set or additional seating. The curved shapes help to distract the eye from the awkward angular shape.
To create a naturalistic look I incorporated locally quarried granite boulders at intervals around the garden, merging onto the patio in places and also a single boulder actually set into the patio itself, giving the illusion that the garden had been created around an existing topography.
Getting from paper to finished design always takes a bit of juggling. With the old plants out we could see that we needed to curve the patio back a little. We even marked the approximate position of the bench and boulder so we had the angles just right.
Most of the garden is shaded so it was easy to find a plant palette that reflected the Pacific Northwest. Japanese maples, Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’) and broadleaf evergreens including Charity Oregon grape (Mahonia x media ‘Charity’) and aucuba (Aucuba japonica) formed the backbone. I didn’t need to select many really tall trees as the outer perimeter of the garden is fairly densely planted with mature trees and shrubs. Evergreen autumn ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora ) are a favorite of mine with their coppery fronds and they blend so well with Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’), hellebores and coral bells (Heuchera) which I used to fill in.
The color scheme needed to be kept simple – mostly shades of green and gold with burgundy or purple accents. However as I started gathering plants I felt it was a little too predictable so included a few brighter notes with the bold Fire Alarm coral bells (Heuchera) and also a touch of grey-blue with Blue Star juniper (Juniperis squamata ‘Blue Star’).
The best designs get tweaked along the way and this was no exception. Some plants were moved, others added and a couple substituted. The end result kept to the original design concept, however, and we were all delighted with the outcome.
These photographs have been taken between late September and mid November, when deciduous plants are losing their leaves, herbaceous perennials dying down and frosts hitting hard. So if you think it looks good now…..just wait! I hope to follow up with spring, summer and fall photos taken in 2014 so you can enjoy it with me as things grow in.
I did the fun part of this project – the design, plants and pots. The talented team at Berg’s Landscaping did all the hard work including soil preparation, stonework, lighting and monster pot hauling. We have worked together on several projects now and it is always a wonderful collaboration. They make me look so good!
THE NEW VIEW
The homeowner has kindly sent me these next two images taken from inside his home.
GREAT GIFT IDEA!
Do you need some help with your garden? When you look out of your window are you excited by what you see? Are you looking for inspiration? FINE FOLIAGE might be just what you need to get those creative juices flowing. Divided clearly into sections for sun and shade with combination ideas as well as individual plant profiles this book is an invaluable resource for gardeners of all levels.
Here’s a great opportunity for you. I can ship THREE copies for the price of ONE! So order one for yourself and two as gifts. I am happy to peronalize and sign each one as you wish. What a perfect hostess gift, new home gift or Christmas present. At less than $17 for an all color, hardback publication it is outstanding value and FINE FOLIAGE has been cited as one of ‘The Best Gardening Books of 2013’ by Amazon!
I try to fill orders within 24 hours and shipping is just 2-3 days which gives you plenty of time to add gift wrap and a bow. Payment is by credit card or Paypal and there is a chance to request a personal message on the last page of the ordering process – or email me with an additional information if you prefer. Order here.
Dare to dream…………