Plants With Purpose

a peaceful woodland garden

Thoughtful use of plants and trees will make your garden more dynamic. Shadows and patterns created by foliage create interest, capture the eye and diffuse views. Plants can also be used to define space, provide screening, or add privacy without putting up a fence or wall that might make a space feel dark or confined.

When I am designing a garden and I want to create the feeling for more depth, I look for plants that have a growth habit that is visibly transparent or can easily be kept that way by pruning. Thinking about how plants will respond as they mature is essential. Some plants lend themselves to being manipulated by pruning (think of a clipped boxwood hedge, an espaliered fruit tree or the Japanese art of bonsai) but most plants look best if they are allowed to grow in their natural habit with only a bit of thinning and shaping.

Regular maintenance and pruning will prevent the need for more drastic measures later if plants have been allowed to outgrow their intended role in the landscape. When using plants for screening, avoid over-planting in an attempt to get quick results—you could end up with other problems later, such as unwanted shade, damage to surrounding hardscape, or encroachment on pathways, neighbors’ yards, and views.

With thousands of plants to choose from, it may seem like an overwhelming task to select plants that look good and support your overall landscape plan. Identifying the type plants you favor is a good place to start. With that information, a garden designer can figure out which ones will thrive in your garden and how those can fit into a cohesive plan.

I hope this blog post helps you get started thinking about enhancing your garden. Summertime is the best time to evaluate your landscaping and plan for the following year. If you are not a gardener or don’t have the time, you can work with a landscape designer to be able to enjoy the beauty and benefits of curated outdoors spaces.

Need more ideas? Contact me for a design consultation and learn about landscape design or the best plants for any spot in your garden.

The White Party

Looking for a crisp, clean alternative to traditional holiday decor? Consider white, symbolizing peace, harmony and clarity. It’s hard to go wrong with white for the winter season, inside or out (unless you use cotton-candy-like fake snow, but we won’t go there).

How does this relate to landscape design? In garden design, white is also a distinctive choice. White is popular for themed gardens and for what are called moonlight gardens (with lighting, and silver and grey foliage). Moonlight gardens radiate from dusk until late, and are particularly striking on starry summer nights when skies are clear. Viewing from a deck or patio is a moving experience.

If you are looking for variety in your garden, try using white annuals and other plants with white flowers for a year or two. White is also a good rotational color for seasonal annuals and potted gardens. Consider the subtle peaceful garden that relies on shades and textures of green with small white flowers and white variegation for a clean and simple look.

A garden experiment

Several years ago, when I moved into a new house, I demolished the existing backyard garden. In its place I envisioned a serenity garden that also provided privacy from neighbors. I zealously designed a landscape featuring white annuals, white rhododendrons, white hydrangeas and, of course, white spring-blooming bulbs. But my dedication didn’t last. After the second season, I lost interest, realizing I could not be limited by an all-white palette. I missed color, so my white garden involved into a warm jeweled-tone palette vaguely reminiscent of a Mediterranean-style landscape, using plants that thrive in the Pacific Northwest’s micro-climates. But I enjoyed the experiment and I still drool over a friend’s ever-changing, white-themed small city garden — especially the well-established sheets of white floribunda climbing roses and clematis draped over classical trellises and arbors.

If you are not ready for an all-white garden, consider the impact that white flowers can add to your landscaping, whether you love color or embrace a more reserved palette. For instance, the pure white flowers of the compact and reliable hybrid ‘Gumpo White’ Azalea and demure perennials like white astilbe and helleborus lend themselves to accent hues like blue, violet, soft yellow and light purple. Not sure where to start? Consider working with a designer. An experienced landscape designer is well trained in color theory and knows how colors relate. They can talk with you about the impact of color and give you some options to consider.

Call us for a consultation to discuss design options for garden enhancements, landscape renovations and sustainable gardens.







HARDSCAPING: What kind of patio or walkway best suits your landscape?

If you’re not familiar with the term, hardscaping is a word used to describe any type of hard surface impressed upon the landscape, including patios, driveways, walkways and more.

When choosing a hardscape option, keep both the aesthetic and the practical in mind. Here are some examples:


Often, a portion of the area needs to be “permeable”, to control where and how run-off drains into the surrounding areas. Pavers and natural stone are considered permeable if they are not mortar set, while cement or aggregate are less so. If there are drainage issues, sand set natural stone or pavers may a good option. These materials allow moisture to drain through the spaces between them evenly without creating much run off.

If there are significant drainage, erosion or moisture problems on the site they should always be addressed before, or as part of, installing any landscape project.

Design and aesthetics:

What fits the space, the surrounding architectural effects and the overall setting? A Japanese garden may work with a traditional tudor, and professional designers can develop ways to merge themes that might otherwise seem incompatible. Considerations such as colors, the size and shape of the space, and most importantly, how it will be used.


There are various price ranges associated with installing hardscapes. The extent of leveling that is needed, as well as the materials selected, are both significant factors. Pavers are often the most cost-effective, followed by some concrete and natural stone treatments, just to scratch the surface. It is best to get an idea of budget ranges during the design process.


If the site is difficult to reach and supplies and equipment need to be moved by hand it may limit the options. Logistics require careful advance planning. While a cement truck may not be practical in a tight space, a smaller scale option, such as combining pavers, tile or natural stones and using bagged cement may be ideal solutions.

An experienced landscape designer has solved these issues many times: knowing what’s out there and how to make informed choices based on aesthetics, budget and logistics. I am available as a consultant to help you make those choices and also provide for implementation services.

Please contact me if you are not sure what hardscape best suits your needs.



A combination of natural stone and sand set pavers

provide a striking contrast.  Greenlake, Seattle WA