Hillside Hideaway, Seattle WA

The owner of this Seattle home, a garden enthusiast, wanted to upgrade the landscaping and asked me to come up with a plan.

The sloped lot on a wooded hillside provided both opportunities and challenges. I created a series of terraces along the side of the house transforming an awkward slope into a place for a new patio and plantings. The terraces function as a series of connected garden rooms that flow together, making it easy to move about the site.

On the home’s entry level, we enlarged the main patio using architectural slabs that reflect the clean lines of the house and blend seamlessly with the existing concrete. Stepable groundcover adds visual interest and natural stone risers provide a graceful transition to the woodland garden beyond. The natural flagstone patio underfoot, lush plantings and mature trees overhead, gives one the feeling they have been transported far from the city. Beyond the woodland, visible from the patio during summertime, organic juniper timbers border a collection of shade-loving perennials evergreens. A combination of native, woodland and ornamental plants keeps the palette interesting.

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Ballard Neighborhood, Seattle WA

A lovingly restored Ballard bungalow deserves a fitting garden. The owner, a master gardener, loves plants and hired me to create a comprehensive plan to solve problems like screening the apartment house next door. The pathway is made of repurposed brick from the original chimney and recycled stepping stones add to the relaxed air. I focused on plants that create structure and continuity with emphasis on seasonal focal points. The result: there is always something interesting popping up or coming into bloom.

In the backyard, the dappled shade below a canopy of mature trees is ideal for the lively palette of this shade garden. Broadleaf shrubs and japanese maples provide structure and perennials create a lush spot for cool summertime dining or a weekend garden party. The owner has a flair for creating a casual vibe with repurposed items like a wooden dining set that has taken on a rustic patina adding to the organic feel of this garden.

Financial Center – Credit Union Headquarters, Seattle WA

The client purchased the building for its headquarters intending to renovate inside and out. The exterior landscape was outdated and overgrown and needed to reflect the modern, fresh image of its new owner. After exploring some preliminary design concepts with the client, in concert with the project architect and interior designer, a plan for a pedestrian courtyard was born. The new landscape includes usable outdoor space for the building’s inhabitants and fosters a sense of community. Plantings include Salal (Gaultheria shallon) and other Pacific Northwest native plants that reflect the company’s branding and local roots. Large boulders and the simplicity of mostly green foliage ground the structure and support its clean lines, giving it new relevance. Permeable pavers meet current storm water codes and reflect the grid pattern on the building while designating the plaza as separate from the surrounding sidewalks.

By The River—North Bend, WA

This home came with the ultimate back yard water feature: the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. However, on the other side of the house, the front yard was overdue for a renovation. An assortment of overgrown and ailing plants obscured the house and hid the entry from visitors.

My client was enthusiastic about the opportunity to start fresh with a cohesive plan that would provide curb appeal and also pleasant views from living room. The goal: To create a welcoming garden that blends with its natural surroundings. The result: A low-maintenance landscape with year-round interest and a defined sense of entry.

Now an unstructured natural stone border defines the edge of the garden and blends seamlessly with the informal crushed rock driveway, while re-enforcing the natural feeling of the setting. Flagstone replaced the existing aggregate landing and now a lush carpet of bright green Isotoma fluviatilis (Bluestar Creeper) grows between the stones and among plants, echoing the mossy floor of the surrounding woods. We used stone risers as steps leading to the garden where natural stepping stones create a meandering path to the backyard and river beyond. New dwarf conifers and broadleaf evergreens look at home among the towering Douglas firs overhead and provide structure during the wintertime when some plants are dormant. During spring and summer, perennials will add color and texture to the garden.

May Plant Of The month

For May we’d like to introduce you to Styrax obassia, the Fragrant Snowbell tree. In the same family as the better-known Styrax japonica (the Japanese Snowbell Tree), it shares some of the prominent characteristics like the white bell-shaped flowers and a graceful silhouette. Otherwise, the Styrax obassia is has some noteworthy characteristics of its own that make it a sophisticated choice for your garden.

The Fragrant Snowbell is perfect for a city garden, topping out about 25- feet tall over many years. Although I have never seen one that large, it is a manageable size that grows moderately slowly and can be kept more compact with careful pruning. However, careless or unskilled pruning can lead to misshapen growth that will ruin the natural form of the tree. It’s a good idea to take classes on pruning, learn about it on line, or hire a qualified professional.

What to consider when planting Styrax obassia

Styrax obassia should not be cramped. Position it as a focal tree. If you up-light it you can enjoy it in the winter, too. Tolerant of soil conditions, it does best in average soil and should not be fertilized—you want to avoid weak, fast growth that can look awkward and out of character with its natural growth pattern. Plant it out of hot afternoon sun, as it is prone to burning—especially if it does not receive sufficient moisture. With its large (over 6-inch wide) ovate leaves and lively bright green color the Fragant Snowbell stands out beautifully among more finely textured foliage in the surrounding garden. The Fragrant Snowbell is not picky, but it sure looks exotic.

To learn more about garden planning, landscape design and successful plants for your garden, contact us.




February Plant Of The Month

The Silver Dollar Lenten Rose is one of the first Hellebore to bloom during winter.  Its muted emerald green foliage is mottled with soft yellow variegation and begins to emerge in late fall just a couple months after going dormant.  Once the stems and leaves develop in late fall, flowers buds begin to appear at the end of the year.  Each blossom consists of a profusion of intricate flowers clustered on large, arching, stems. The creamy moon yellow flowers bring out the same color in the foliage.  Together they create an eye catching display at a time of year when most plants are not doing much.

In contrast to other Hellebore, it foliage is as interesting as its flowers and holds up throughout summer, even though it is technically a perennial.  Because of it long life cycle,  it can be a mainstay of an ornamental landscape.  It prefers some indirect or morning sunlight to keep the foliage robust, large and brilliantly colored, but keep it out of deep shade or afternoon sun for best results.  Like most Lenten Rose it is pest resistant and doesn’t need rich soil or much water once established.

Silver Dollar is a good companion with dark green or blue-toned conifers, burgundy foliage and any rich, deep green.  Pure white and bright yellow are best avoided in direct vicinity as the tend to compete with the otherworldly lemon chiffon color of the flowers.

Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and stunning plants for winter landscapes.

Shrubs With Berries Bring Back Color and Spirit

Winter BerriesIn the stretch between New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, a Northwest garden risks seeming anti-climactic or even bleak. To add color and spirit, look to trees and shrubs that have berries. In the winter landscape they provide an awe-inspiring silhouette, whether set against a backdrop of white snow or gray skies or shimmering in the winter sun.
Plants with fruits and berries that ripen in winter bring lively colors. They’re also an important food source for winter birds and early returning flocks.

When I design and update gardens, I use an all-seasons approach that includes plants and trees that produce berries in winter. A few of my favorite choices for winter interest include:

Winterberry – Ilex verticillata:

A deciduous holly bearing lots of big, juicy bright red berries on erect stems. Winterberry looks stunning against a backdrop of coniferous evergreens like the Blue Ice Arizona Cypress.

Arrowhead Viburnum — Viburnum dentatum:

A striking deciduous, woody shrub with drupes of deep blue berries. Arrowhead Viburnum is excellent mixed with variegated or golden-colored foliage that set off its fruit.

Scarlet Firethorn — Pyracantha coccinea:

An evergreen shrub with loads of big, red berries, often grown on trellises or espaliered. It’s a favorite with birds. I have seen a flock of hungry robins strip a Pyracantha bush of fruit in just minutes!

Gray Dogwood — Cornus racemosa:

A large deciduous shrub or small tree with dusty green leaves and white berries held on deep red sprays in winter. The Gray Dogwood mixes well with burgundy or dark-colored foliage that complements its foliage and berries.

Now is a great time to look around at berries. Take note of what you might like to plant this spring for next winter.

I hope these tips keep you active and motivated to be in your garden space.
 Contact us to learn more about garden planning, landscape design, and winter landscapes.

Landscape Design with Succulents brings new life to the summer garden

By definition, Succulent plants are plants that have some parts that are more than normally thickened or fleshy usually to retain water in acrid climates or soil conditions.  This means, universally, they store water and are drought tolerant.

Sedum is a genus of over 400 leaf Succulents including hardy perennial bushes that that can grow as tall as four feet.  These low maintenance gems provide an array of foliage and flower variations.  Nearly indestructible and virtually disease resistant, the species that thrive in the Pacific Northwest do best in full sun, in average to poor soil with good drainage, and little or no supplemental water.  At this time of year, Succulents are a great way to refresh pots and add to perennial borders or annual plantings that need a boost.  Tender varieties that will not make it though the winter in this climate (mostly due to soggy winters causing them to rot), lend a dramatic and almost desert or tropical feel during the warmer months of the Pacific Northwest.  Varieties like ‘Metallica’ (pictured) grow to several inches across offering great scale and a wonderful spectrum of color variation.

With hundreds of varieties to choose from, the possibilities are endless!

Michael Muro Garden Design offers garden planning and comprehensive landscape design in Washington State.





Mercer Island, WA

Curb appeal. Native plants and ornamentals, pop under a canopy of mature Douglas Fir.