Welcome to our September edition of Design Challenges, and this back yard definitely had its challenges. So hang on to this copy, it will take two or possibly three editions to cover the full subject. Our clients could not have been more pleasant. In fact, with them being many years younger than I, I have appointed myself to being their Uncle Arthur. Overall, we have been blessed with great clients, I just can’t be everyone’s uncle. With that as our introduction, let’s get started.
As you know with each and every edition, theme is always front and center, and for our clients it was pretty much set. They have vacationed in Hawaii and having enjoyed it, wanted to bring some of that home; so tropical was our theme. With each theme, I always discuss what I consider to be the benefits and the challenges. With a tropical landscape, high maintenance and frost concerns would be the challenges. Given those concerns, I was able to encourage them into a Tropical/Mediterranean blended theme. It is very worrisome and impractical to go out each night forecasted to freeze, and cover eighty or so tropical plants. So the blended theme maintains the “feel”, but introduces plants that are hardier.
With the theme decided, what were the design challenges? Was it the weedy condition of the yard? Well admittedly that didn’t help, it is always helpful to see the contour of the yard, but that was not the challenge. It was the layout of the yard. The yard is divided into very distinct sections, both in size and shape, and in sun light. The dividing aspects are the pool and a sizable wood deck that encircles a large Oak (not shown). Creating a harmony or a flow was going to be the challenge, especially with the varying light, from full sun all day, to shade for most of the day. Also capturing the fullness of the yard in a picture to show is just not possible. There is not one picture or position that can capture the whole yard, so as mentioned, keep your copy and next month we will see another area.
I am always asked, “Arthur if this was your back yard (or front yard) what would you do?” I have about five minutes to come up with a general design. So how is that done? Well I look for the obvious first, which the Oak tree could not be more obvious. It told me that I would need to use larger sized palms and trees. The next thing I look for is if there is a need for privacy. This is a big deal for you ladies, and yes there is definitely a need for that. Next what request do the clients have? They had two, one was to create an area for a future fire pit, and the other was to use stepping stones in the landscape.
In the picture shown at the top, notice that the center area remains without plants, which represents the location of the future fire pit. Also notice the stepping stones, they curve around and go down a side planter. At first I tried to persuade them to not use the stepping stones, the area down the side was already so narrow, but they wanted them. Of course the client always wins. In the end I really liked them; it was an added feature that tied the two sections together. By planting two mature palms on either side of the pathway it emphasized the pathway. The look is similar to how an archway emphasis an entrance into a garden. These are some of the things I look for, and the questions I ask when coming up with an initial plan. So in answering the question, I emphasize the need for larger plant material and the need for privacy. And since the trees will be so close to the pool, they need to be evergreen and smaller trees.
Lastly we would repeat the use of specific plants in all the planters to tie the yard together. It is the obvious things I start with, and as we finish discussing and I’m left alone to start taking measurements and counts, more ideas come to me that I share with our clients later in our second meeting. However this gets me started. I have yet to repeat the same landscape twice which is amazing to me, and a big Amen; for I know where my inspiration comes from. Until next time – Good Gardening.