Welcome to April’s edition of Design Challenges. Before we get started I want to say that the landscape we are viewing for our discussion has a year of growth. I often use photos of jobs just completed, but this photo shows you a maturing garden. The plants have almost doubled in size since the project’s completion. In another year, the balance between visible bark and plants will be about right, so you can see the importance of proper spacing during the initial installation.
Moving on to our topic, last month we outlined the concerns of a client who needed a design for a sloped property and to turn an “eye sore” from a liability into an asset. There was also the need for privacy, to screen glare from street lamps, and to provide easy access to the yard for her wheelchair-bound husband. As we examine how these challenges were met, we will be viewing the other side of the yard. Because of its relative steepness (which is only partially viewed in the photo) this section was little enjoyed. I will, however, also be referencing last month’s pictures, so it may help you to look also at the March issue, or to look at the Gunther project in the portfolio section of my website.
Now the steepest challenge (no pun intended) was the slope. Having designed for many, I ﬁnd that slopes each have unique “personalities.” Some are very steep and short, some are long and gradual, and others are long and steep. This one was unusual because it had two distinct sides, yet the solution ﬁtted both. The slope, though small, was steep, too difﬁcult for the homeowner to access it to maintain the plants without building some kind of retaining wall to make it more level. Also the slope had speciﬁc areas of lava cap, making it virtually useless for planting unless we added substantial soil to it. Therefore a retaining wall became our solution. We measured a speciﬁc distance from the fence where most of the lava cap Would be at the very base of the wall, providing additional stability. The wall created an intentional and manageable planter bed, giving form and structure to the garden.
The next challenge was the need for privacy and to mitigate glare of the street lights. Now this took some thinking on my part. The surrounding homes had balconies on the second ﬂoor, and the street lamps were even taller. These presented a good challenge, but once the solution came, I became very excited, and fortunately the solution solved both problems. The half circles were our solution, allowing us to plant evergreen trees that would grow to the height needed to accomplish our goal. By using evergreens, rather than deciduous trees, our client would be able to enjoy uninterrupted privacy.
The ﬁnal challenge was creating easy access to the yard. I do not have pictures to show what we did, but I can explain some of the changes. First, we built a step immediately outside the kitchen slider. It is shorter in width than the norm so that his wheelchair is close, enabling him to readily sit into his wheelchair without having to take additional steps. The walkways are all wide enough for him to navigate easily. In order to provide access to the spa, we sank it about halfway into the ground to lower the entrance height. We also installed a chair lift.
The ﬁnished design addresses the challenges of the property as well as the client’s personal concerns in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and expresses the client’s personality. Next month we will look at a fully sloped yard 5″ and show how we converted it into a mountain theme. In the meantime, please plan ahead for your own landscaping.