Welcome to our February edition, a series on landscape themes. Theme is a recurring topic for me; in fact, in every client meeting, it is priority one. For those of you who regularly read our publication, you understand the importance of deciding on a theme for garden design. It is the common thread that ties all the elements, the hardscape, water features, pots, colors, plant and tree choices together.
Understanding the importance of theme is not the same as being able to select one. When meeting with clients, I use my portfolio to show what the various themes look like and how they translate into a landscape design. This series of articles will serve the same purpose. I will be showing you a range of projects so that I can point out the elements that can be used to create various themes while also providing you a picture of each theme. Over the course of this series, you will see large jobs as well as small jobs. The point of that is twofold: first, to show that theme deals more with choices than size of land to be landscaped; and second, to present a variety of landscape sizes so as to demonstrate what can be accomplished in each of them.
To lay the proper groundwork for this series, it must be said that a well thought out landscape should be colorful, peaceful and inviting at all times, regardless of the theme. Clients will often use these words to describe to me what they want, but that is not a theme. The theme is what gives you a specific feel: a reminder of Hawaii if it’s tropical; or of structure and flow if it’s Asian; or a more rugged feel if the theme is Tahoe. So that is how theme fits into our landscapes. Even so, all landscapes—regardless of theme—are to be beautiful. So with that said, we will now start our series with a project that has an Asian/Nor-Cal theme:
Ross and Lori have a beautiful view from their backyard; what they didn’t have was any kind of garden. Upon showing them
our portfolio, they decided upon an Asian/Nor Cal theme.
Now, as we consider the theme of this project, what are the design elements used to give the overall landscape an Asian/Nor Cal feel? Let’s answer the most obvious. The Nor Cal feel comes from the mature Redwoods which are on either side of the property, not
readily seen in the photos. Now what are the elements we are incorporating for the Asian part of the theme?
Let’s start answering this question by looking at the hardscape. The use of bamboo is probably the most recognizable feature of an Asian theme, and it is not hard to overdo the use of it. So we incorporated it with boulders to divide spaces,
planter from planter and planter from walk way. It is a very effective design feature for this theme.
Now let’s talk about stone/flagstone. Asian themes, at least the ones I have seen use a lot of gray or black flagstone in the construction of a patio or walkway/steps. Yet rust, dark orange and browns are also Asian and more colorful. So in constructing the lower patio, we used flagstone that incorporated these richer colors, and the steps were cut from the same stone type. So there is consistency with the stone.
Another hardscape feature is the retaining wall (behind the waterfall), it has a rough texture and muted colors, but the tans and grays harmonize with the flagstone, and its roughness balances out the smoother texture of the flagstone (ying and yang). The use of gravel is also important. Many Asian designs have extensive raked gravel beds with boulders uniquely placed and nothing else—a little too sterile for me. However, if we take a moment and talk about plant types, we know grasses are used frequently in Asian design. They may not normally be combined with gravel beds, yet in doing so, a focal point is created that
is more appealing than just gravel, and the Asian theme is still honored.
The last hardscape feature is a small detail, but Asian themes are known for small details. The two pots, though not a part of the
big picture, work nicely in adding that detail to the landscape. The color and semi-rough texture (hard to see in the photo) go nicely
with the flagstone and add interest to the overall landscape design.
The other two features, the water spire and stream bed, though not Asian per se, are very complementary to the theme.
Now for the plant selections, the Japanese Maples, the Serpentine Cedar and Cherry (not shown), the Sagos and the specific combi-
nation of 5 gallon plants (which would be a whole other publication to name and discuss) all tie themselves to the theme.
Upon coming home from a small vacation, the owners were quite amazed at the transformation that took approximately three weeks. They were happy and we were happy.
If you need landscaping help, call Executive Care Landscaping Management, Inc. at (916) 765-9040 or visit our website www.executivecareinc.com. To schedule an at-home consulation click on “contact” then fill out the form. Executive Care
Landscaping Management, Inc. is a local full service residential and commercial landscape company.
There are many plants that would be good choices for this month’s Asian theme, but the two that are probably most noteworthy,
and also not well known, are the plant grasses within the gravel planter. Their botanical names are Ophiopogon japonicas nana, common name is Dwarf Mondo Grass and Zephyrantes candida, or Zephy flower (don’t you wonder who thinks of these names?). The
Dwarf Mondo Grass is the smaller of the two grasses, planted as a border between the bamboo and the Zephy flower. Both of these
little known and used plants make for a great arrangement within the gravel planter. The Mondo Grass is actually native to Asia, a perfect fit for this theme. It does best in afternoon shade, but I have planted it in full sun. The tips will burn through the summer, but by mid fall and after a tip trimming it looks fine. It has a small lilac colored flower followed by small blue berries. They also make
a great alternative to lawn; whereas lawn tends to thin out under shade, the Mondo Grass thrives and it doesn’t need mowing!
The Zephyr flower is a beautiful lily type plant, native to Central and South America. It does well in full and filtered sun, blooms for long periods of time, typically in spring, late summer and into fall. Very adaptable to other themes, great in rock gardens and pots, and is a bulb plant, so in colder climates it will die back. The flowers are a 2” cream white with a yellow throat, and similar to the morning glory, the bloom “goes to sleep” when the sun sets opening again in the morning. Both plants can be divided in the cooler months to gain more plants if needed, or to share with a friend. Blessings.