Not everyone has a yard that is flat as a pancake.
For fun, I thought I would show you a series of back gardens where the home owners had to contend with the challenges like hillside slopes and deep ravines. Most of these beautiful gardens were designed and installed by professionals. We'll look for lessons from the designers and affordable alternatives to hiring a crane and a crew of burly landscapers.
Garden #1: Hillside back garden. In this first backyard, the land slopes steeply up and away from the foundations of the house. The professional designer's solution? Add a series of curved terraces into the hillside.
A stone pathway and staircase leads you around the side of house and down into the garden. This first picture is the view from the stop of that stairway.
More affordable Alternative: I actually think this may even be a little bit of a case of boulder overkill. I personally would have gone with fewer big stones and more plantings in the nooks and crannies. Sometimes not having tons of money and a crew of professional landscapers can actually make you more creative. Imagine instead an old fashioned rock garden set into the slope here.
A curved hillside of boulders in that last shot, leads your eye around to another set of steps that take you up to first level on the hillside terrace.
Note that the grid lines of the large flat stones in the foreground draw your eye in the direction of the stone steps. Affordable Aternative: Concrete pavers instead of cut stone.
This has got to be one of the most tasteful presentations of a hot tub I have ever seen. There is even a space heater incase things gets chilly. What luxury!
If the hot tube doesn't take the edge off a long day off the office, the soothing sounds
of the splashing water probably would.
Did yo notice that the designer has cleverly placed the botanical equivalent of a waterfall
beside the real waterfall?
The designer has also done a really nice job of mixing foliage shapes, colors and textures.
This garden has another nice feature we must admire while we are here. It is just behind the cedars that you can see in the near-distance on the right.
What a great space for relaxing around a campfire! Imagine sitting fireside and toasting marshmallows on a cool, late summer evening. Bliss!
More affordable alternative: What is the most important design feature of this part of the garden?
Did you answer the elaborate stonework? It is certainly statement making, but I don't think it is the most important element.
What is more crucial are the shrubs and evergreens which surround and enclose the area, sheltering it from the noises of the busy city surrounding it. The greenery functions like a cocoon, enclosing the space and making it an intimate gathering place.
Once you release this design secret, recreating this area becomes doable. Create a semi-cirlce of shrubs and evergreens. Lay down a flagstone or pea gravel patio area in the center. Then, place some adirondack chairs in a semi-cicle around a store-bought fire pit.
Garden #2: Steeply sloping property. Next, we are going to look at second garden at the side of a house, where the land slopes toward the back of the property. There are two ways to get down the slope.
You can take the more direct route and go down a set of stone steps. Here we are looking back the way we came.
Or you can meander down a snaking path of grass and walk in among the plantings. Here, we are looking back on the grass path we have taken down the slope from the front garden.
But before we go further, let's take second and go back to that first view down the slope. I want to make a point about the design function of the arbor.
The arbor is a destination; a Pandora's box if you will. I beacons to the visitor and invites you to come further. Let's test the theory by looking at the view with and without the arbor.
Suddenly there is nothing encouraging you to go any further. The doorway says, "Come in."
And what a shame not to visit the lower more woodsy section of the garden!
The rhododendron is beautiful and there are lots of woodland plants to admire as well.
Before we go, let's take a second, and admire the skill of the gardener who managed to grow something this pretty and exotic in a northern garden, where the late summer is often dry.
Part 2 will be up next.
I also promise to post the winner of the Free-Range Chicken Gardens book draw as well.