Usually, we take on landscaping and gardening projects to attract attention to the areas being landscaped or gardened, right? But as one of our recent projects illustrates, it’s not always that simple.
The client and her family have a magnificent, new lakefront home, complete with an outdoor kitchen and entertainment area connected to the home by a breezeway. The home is sited so it faces the raison d’être—the lake—while the “back” yard is what is first seen when approaching from the street and driveway.
When the family asked us to create a design and plantings for their back yard, our challenge was to produce an attractive, functional, outdoor living space that would celebrate, not compete with, the awesome lake view.
First, a long, stone retaining wall to address the steep slope on one side of the property was built.
We specified sod for ground cover on the steep slope. Besides providing a lush, deep green, visual backdrop, sod would absorb water, slowing down the flow of rainwater from the upper level above the retaining wall to the ground level below and helping to prevent soil erosion. It’s a great choice for most places like this, except where it’s too steep to mow.
The steep sloping area above the outdoor kitchen grilling station was graded to hide the side of the entertainment building without dwarfing it. Getting the grade right and planting sod would help control erosion alongside the wall nearest the grill, too.
From a design standpoint, I used the smooth, clean carpet of sod as a “unifier.” It brings together different elements of the yard and gardens as it flows from the upper tier to the lower level and draws the eye straight to the view of the lake beyond.
Next to the grilling station, pink and purple annuals surround a conifer in a small focal area, grounded by a contrasting, hefty boulder. The evergreen shrub is a Chamaecyparis obtusa, also known as Fernspray Gold, Golden Fernspray or Hinoki False Cypress.
Visitors entering the back yard from the driveway are met by a sweeping expanse of lawn that ushers them toward the entertainment area and the main focal point of the property, which is visually framed by the breezeway: the lake!
With the addition of an intimate courtyard and a wooden trellis structure, the finished back yard is now a spectacular space that complements its lakefront setting. It’s multi-functional, easy to maintain and beautiful, without competing with the lake view for attention.