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 to transform an awkward slope into a place for a new patio surrounded by plantings. The terraces themselves 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. Steppable groundcover adds visual interest and natural stone risers provide a graceful transition to the woodland garden below. The natural flagstone patio underfoot, with lush plantings all around and mature trees overhead, enables you to feel as though you’ve been transported far from the city. Beyond the woodland, and visible from the patio during summertime, a collection of shade-loving perennials is bordered by organic timbers. A combination of native, woodland and ornamental plants keeps the garden 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.

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 The exterior landscape was outdated and overgrown and needed to reflect the modern, fresh image of its new owner.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.

Does Landscaping Really Add Value To Your Home?

Is your garden adding value to your home? A “for sale” sign along with the fresh scent of several yards of beauty-bark and some perennials desperately shoved into the dirt is a sad but familiar scene. Nice try, but no one is fooled by that trick–especially not a property assessor.

A strong investment in a garden shows in your final resale price, especially if it is well-designed, established and maintained. After I purchased my home and redesigned the garden spaces, the value increased significantly. Over time, I can also see that my home has increased in value at a more rapid rate than others in the neighborhood.  When I recently refinanced, I was able to learn the details of how your landscape figures into an actual assessment of property value.

The assessor explained that the landscape of an individual house is compared to other landscapes within the neighborhood,  similar to how some of the other quality-related characteristics of a property are evaluated. When the landscape quality exceeds the average in the neighborhood  the margin of that difference is added to the value of the property. Similarly, neglected or outdated landscapes detract from the value. The actual amount is different for each home and neighborhood  but can be as much as 10%. You can experiment with this by looking at properties you are familiar with on Zillow.

If resale value is among your objectives, your landscape design can be a considerable asset. Be cautious about more extravagant features–such as fish ponds–as they pose a maintenance issue for a potential buyer and as such might not add much to the monetary value of the property. In the end, paying for cover ups does not add value. Investing in the longer term need not be expensive or elaborate to have a great pay-off, and you get to enjoy the investment along the way!

Old Can Be New In Landscape Design

If you have been active in your garden space for more than a few years, you might remember the arrival of the New Zealand Flax as a trend in the 1990s. This episode was testimony to the fact that garden design is as susceptible to the influences of trends as architecture and fashion, with many great new discoveries and the occasional strategic mishit. When Flax was first introduced as a landscape plant, it was often used without a plan as a garden accent and surprised many unsuspecting gardeners when it catapulted up to 10 feet high and became the visual and spatial equivalent of a hostile-takeover.  In the following years, exotic and showy cultivars were developed.  Stunning varieties of Flax, such as the Phormuim ‘Jester’  returned to the catwalks of garden design as an annual or a focal point in a seasonal plantings. Today it is still a good option in the right setting.  Not always as hearty as the original variety, it may not last through a tough winter. Plan to use it as a short term addition to your landscape and you won’t be disappointed. It might survive, which would be an added treat.  If you are worried about trying marginally hearty species or experimenting with a new plant, think about trying it in a container or plant  just one in the perfect spot in your garden.  Then, see what happens!

With some of our emerging issues with climate change, temperature zones could shift just enough to impact what thrives in any given location. In fact, the USDA recently made small adjustments to a couple temperature zones in the southern United States.  Having worked as a garden designer in the Pacific Northwest for my entire career, I am in tune with the best plan picks for this area and subtle changes in the local environment that influence the best plant choice for any garden location.

Trends can be a positive and a fun way to experiment with seasonal changes.  You can also take trends in the opposite direction too. If you have an older and established Rhododendron, you can prune it and shape it to bring back an element of a classic look next to older homes and buildings.

I’ll never stop being captivated but what’s new, adjusting my vision on what is “old” and enjoying how this turns out in my garden space. If you are feeling restless about your garden space, think about adding something new. Give me a call and I am glad to help you experiment with this.

Look For Winter Blooming Perennials Now!

Lenten Rose, Snow Drops and Cyclamen are flowering now. It is a good time to think about adding these to your garden for next year.

It is also a good time for a stroll through The Washing Park Arboretum, Kubota Gardens and other local parks and botanical gardens to see what is blooming now.  You will notice other plants and trees that stand out.  Many extraordinary and colorful  varieties of conifers and deciduous trees with intriguing bark are striking during the winter months.

Enjoy the view and fresh air or take notes and pictures if you are looking to update your garden and make it more “winter friendly”.

Back home, look at your own garden and decide what adjustments would make a show at this time next year.  If you are getting ideas for a new garden or major renovation, a garden designer will help you to select the right plants and incorporate the best choices into a comprehensive plan for your site.

Whether you need help with plant selection or a comprehensive landscape plan, I tailor my services to you project and lifestyle.  Contact me if now you are looking to make changes to your garden in 2015.

Heleborus niger 'HGC Jacob'

Plant waterwise plants and love the results this summer!

Many people have work and family commitments that leave them without time to regularly keep up with watering. Vacations and business travel can see gardens untended for a couple of weeks at a time, and long days at work can turn into dried gardens at home.

Gardens need watering on a changing basis depending on the time of year and also on the characteristics of the garden. If your garden has fast-draining sandy soil, a southwest exposure or is exposed to high winds, it can be especially susceptible to dry weather periods. Also, newer landscapes will need supplemental water during the first one or two years before they start to establish and grow deep roots. Irrigation systems provide options to manage these situations. They range from soakers to programmable systems with automatic rain sensors and timers. These save time and also make it easier to ask friends and neighbors to help with watering when you are not available.

If you like the idea of conserving water in general, you can also design drought tolerant gardens by selecting species that are adapted to the Pacific Northwest. Many native plants can survive the hot, dry spells along with the range of soggy to freezing climate variations that we have throughout the year. To keep the design palette interesting, drought tolerant plants from other regions as well as some exotic annual varieties add color and interest.

Let me know if you want to consider options for summer gardens, and we can discuss perfect plants and other options to keep your outdoor spaces fresh and enjoyable.


Mercer Island, WA

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

Queen Anne Hill, Seattle

Contrast of modern clean lines and an Asian-inspired garden.  Seattle Landscape Design