Archive for June, 2007

Informal Seating | Landscape Design Ideas

IMG_7091.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Informal Seating | Landscape Design Ideas

This is the place for me. If you’re like me, you’re drawn to this. This is a spot on one of the nature wlks at Meadowlark Farm Park in Fairfax, VA. Really, I can’t imagine who wouldn’t be happy to sit here even just for a few mintes. The clearing in the woods is not highly landscaped but someone has certainly put some thought into it. The horizontal low simple benches contrast nicely with the tall trunks surrounding them. The mulched (pioneer free) area just in front allows for breathing room and then a simple mayapple focal point completes the peaceful spot.

Informal Path | Landscape Design Ideas

IMG_7753.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Informal Path | Landscape Design Ideas

There are so many ways to do this but this beautiful example exists at Green Springs Gardens in Fairfax VA. On the left side there is a blooming barrier of dutzia, one of newest favorites, and on right is a soft cushion of ornamental grass. Beckoning at the end of the gentle curve is some lilac | Syringa vulgaris. The dynamic movement comes from the curve combined with continous lines of color leading you on.

Woodland Garden | Landscape Ideas

IMG_6488.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Woodland Garden | Landscape Ideas

This woodland garden in NW DC, designed by my friend and fellow landscape designer, Cathy Barrow (aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow) bursts forth in the spring with bulbs and perrenials, BUT NO GRASS. Looking carefully next to the house you can see one of the 7 foot tall camellia just tucked behind te the tree. This garden features daphne, red stem dogwoods, amelanchier and hellebore which grace the new PA Bluestone path. The path sweeps around the side to the right and into the back yard. Walking around the house turns out to be a really nice trip. Experiencing a yard like this means appreciating the seasons.

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[above: camellias, below left: amelanchier, below right: hellebore]

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[below: red stem dogwood about to leaf out with stone edged raised beds and nice meandering path]

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Curb Appeal | Landscape Design Ideas

IMG_8241.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Curb Appeal | Landscape Ideas

I really appreciate the balance in this simple sidewalk treatment. Instead of going with grass on the road side, here we have some different kinds of loriope and other short ornamental grasses. But the real trick here was adding the extra soft texture of the hostas on the other side of the top of the little wall. This treatment accentuates the wall but doesn’t overwhelm it, and defintely incorporates the sidewalk into the yard in an expansive way. Lovely.

Rocks Are Kid Friendly | Landscape Design Ideas

IMG_8197.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Rocks Are Kid Friendly | Landscape Design Ideas

This is my kid, one of them anyway, hanging out in my backyard. Yes, she’s fantastically unique BUT like every other kid, she loves rocks, big rocks, little rocks, any rocks at all. Still, she didn’t ask for this kind of a backyard. When she was 6, she couldn’t concieve any alternative forms of swingset and playhouse. Though those things just weren’t in the cards due to saftey standard space issues, a 7% grade, expense and a selfish mother who wanted to claim the backyard for her own. Ok, so this was my very first “project” and will likely also be my last project because, of course, it continues into the future. I’m a little nervous about showing it, because I wish it were more lush already. I must be patient. Nuf said. Lily didn’t realize it at the time, but she certainly got what she wanted and much more.

When we decided to re-work our backyard, the first thing we did was run on over to Tri-State Quarry. Our standard issue suburban backyard really needed something with big impact to change the appeal but could also take a beating and add some character. What better than boulders? Luckily at the time we had a driveway that wrapped around to the back of our house where the too small garage is. We made great use of the drive, before we demolished it, to bring in pallets of stones which now helps create some great outdoors in a small area. My two kids now perch and explore with any number of stuffed animals and friends, hopping from boulder to boulder.
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Above, is the “After” shot of course when the ferns grew in and the picture below shows the moment when we brought in the first boulders – moved with a bobcat – but you can tell what it felt like beforehand, boring.
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I also got what I wanted, I didn’t have to give up a large area of the backyard to play space that couldn’t be used in any other way. Now my family comfortably shares the space. We might have ended up divided by our acitivity but instead everything is integrated thanks to the boulders.
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Another “before” and “after” pair above and below. Gosh. Taking out the drive and adding the pea gravel eliminated our basement flooding problem at the same time. It’s not perfect, but not expensive either and yes, totally dry.

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Did I mention that we don’t really have any climbing trees, either? We do have a neighbor’s tree branch hanging over our yard, on which we hung this hammock swing. Thank you, LG! Kids love it and so do grownups.
Here’s Lucy now taking a turn in the swing, below. I guess Argo is waiting his turn.
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Mid-Century Continuity | Landscape Design Ideas

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Mid-Century Continuity | Landscape Design Ideas

The wrought iron railings, gate and front door windows has such great style and draws eyes across the entire yard. I plan to barrow the gate design for a project I’m working on. It adds some fantasitc style across the entire yard and unifies or even marries the house to it’s landscape. Each wrought iron element is a different varriation on the theme, but instead of exact repitition the variation adds an extra depth to the idea.

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There are really very few plantings and other elements in the front yard here. (Maybe the Chamaecyparis is a bit overgrown, or maybe they just don’t like their neighbor’s style) But the lines are bold and the materials quite distinct. The textural interest seem to be within the materials. This bold simplicity makes a tightly designed mid-century statement that is also quite stable and doesn’t need a lot of care (except perhaps for painting the iron). It’s nice to keep it simple for a front yard that isn’t too large. This design is definitely in the human scale, neither intimate nor grand. It’s hard to find this kind of thing in the DC area.
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Informal Beds | Landscape Design Ideas

IMG_8233.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Informal Beds | Landscape Design Ideas

So many of my friends have lately said things like this to me, “I really want to get away from ridged formal stuff. I really like a ‘cottage garden‘ style. I need something more loose and natural in my front yard”. I think mostly they are reacting to some uninspired uniform plantings in their foundations and borders, probably left there by a builder who didn’t know anything about texture and only cared that the plants would live past the year warrenty. I do think symmetry can be good. It can bring a sense of granduer to a site, but many times that isn’t what we’re looking for in our own yards. These friends of mine may be wanting a more “pedestrian” scaled landscape they can appreciate as they amble through their yard.

So I was on the lookout (and will continue to be) for some great front yards that mix things up more. This one, above, does a lovely job on a slope that might otherwise be problematic. Shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous are planted in groupings or clumps. No, this isn’t quite a cottage garden but in our shady DC suburban or urban settings, wildflowers aren’t always an option. There just isn’t usually enough sun to create fields of poppies, but you can achieve the same rich ambiance by working with shade lovers, ferns, heuchera, euonymous, hellebore, hostas, grasses even combined with a few azaleas. When you ONLY have azaleas, there is no foil. But mix them into a border like this with a soft low stone wall and you have something great especially when you have to contend with hills and drainage issues.

Stone Wall Style | Landscape Design Ideas

IMG_8263.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Stone Wall Style | Landscape Design Ideas

This is my favorite kind of stone wall, a stacked wall that appears to have no morter. This house is near mine but I’ve never stopped to actually check and see if it does have morter. I want to have the illusion that it does not, perhaps. Anyway, the color and texture are so attractive. The horizontal wall creates some nice continuity along the front of a house busy with vertical lines. The simple plantings along the wall support the horizontal line, too. The monocromatic colors in the yard allow the textures to appear with the dappled light. Yes, I like stone walls, but this one has an extra beautiful feature, the triptic of dogwood trees perched on top. They provide a minimalist barrier for this house on a fairly busy neighborhood street. I like the setting a lot.

Mitered Corner Steps | Landscape Design Ideas

IMG_8236.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Mitered Corner Steps | Landscape Design Ideas

This house’s entrance has a hill to contend with. The mitered steps make such a nice vertical transition from the slanted sidewalk to front yard level. The steps and landing are wide and ample enough to keep people on balance on their approach to the house. The wide stepes go well with the wide porch behind. The stone is quite beautiful but I wonder what it would have looked like made from wood, which might have been a better match for the house itself.

I assume the tree was there before the steps but it seems to provide balance for the yard, keeping the stairs grounded. I also like the simple and low plantings near the steps which create a really pretty view of the house. The tree helps frame the view, as well.

Pavers Done Right | Landscape Design Ideas

IMG_8245.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Pavers Done Right | Landscape Design Ideas

Use of the “pavers” – brick-like flooring material made of an amalgam of concrete and coloring and laid in decorative patterns – here in this front yard ties the front walk and drive together in a really sophisticated way.

This house doesn’t have alot of front yard space to allocate to a big driveway so using the attractive pavers and incorporating little green islands into the surface blurs the normally rigid line between the drive and front yard. When cars are not parked there, the driveway is a comfortable space for kids to play. Whether cars are present or not, the main front entrance remains welcoming, gracious and open. If the driveway was just straight, the front yard might feel way too crouded and infringed upon by the garage just because of the artificial line drawn between drive and yard.
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The planted island beds are just so terrific, a great approach. Most of the time I think people get carried away with pavers because they like their texture and patterns that they create these areas that are seem almost barren wastelands to me. Islands solve it, if a bit boldly.

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