Let’s Get Started #2

OK. I’m back with our backyard concept plan. This is how I would begin the design journey with all of my clients – I’m no exception! Back in Willow Glen we enjoyed a rather deep, albeit, narrow yard. I liked it… From my point of view it lent itself well to a layered, experiential view from the back patio – one that’s not easily seen and understood in one glance, a sense of unfolding mystery. When we were in the market for a new home, I was looking for a backyard reminiscent of Willow Glen. I didn’t find it… Even when we discovered this place I was disappointed with the grounds because it was too shallow where I wanted it deep and too wide where I wanted it narrow. At least, this is what I thought in the beginning… However, once I changed my point of view I realized I had just what I wanted! This is what I mean: By manipulating the space, that is, designing the patio to direct my guests attention away from the back fence line, (a mere 17′ away) and instead, down the garden’s long axis I would have the perceived depth that I was looking for. So, here is the plan I developed.

Let me walk you through it. First, keep in mind that this is a plan view. That is, a view seen form above – as if you’re hovering from a helicopter! From the breakfast nook, you step across the existing wood deck -the “porch” in my drawing and down to the courtyard – the “patio” in my drawing. It will feel like a sunken courtyard because I’m proposing a curved, two foot dry stack stone wall along its outer perimeter to create a level patio that is large enough to entertain. Remember, I have grading issues – see my first blog. I am including a small built-in BBQ and a raised bed for Lois’ perennials. Above the courtyard and behind the stone wall, I am keeping five existing fruitless olive trees which had been trained/pruned into a solid hedge. However, through extreme pruning I returned them to tree form and now the birds including hummers can fly and perch in them with ease. They love it and we love that they love it! They will also enjoy our old Willow Glen water fountain once it’s installed in the corner – as shown. There will be dappled shade most of the day in the courtyard from either the olive trees or the shade structure I’m proposing – as shown.

I will saw-cut and remove a sizable portion of existing concrete patio off the left side of the house. The section I’m keeping has a small 90 degree jog in it – I’m keeping that. With it I will fashion a small planting and integrate the existing concrete (at the jog) with the interlocking paver stones I’m using for the courtyard – I’m getting those on sale!!

The rhythmic movement of the serpentine stone wall orients the courtyard and the viewer’s eye up the length of the yard to its final destination, which I will get to in a moment. The curved line of the wall continues in the form of the lawn/planting edge which unifies the design. I generally do not like using too many loopy curved lines unless they are counterbalanced by an architectural edge, either provided by the building or a landscape element. That is why I have straight cut boarders where possible in the courtyard paving and of course we are working off the house and garage line in close proximity. Otherwise, there is no sense of structure to the garden plan. Well, getting back to the plan: from the edge of the courtyard, our guests will be able to walk up the sloped lawn (remember there is an elevation change to this yard) or take the easier way up the stone textured concrete path to the steps near the garage. At this point you can turn right, climb up the existing wood landing to the laundry room or garage or out the front gate. Or, you can turn left and continue up the garden steps to the lawn and beyond. Here’s a sample of the textured concrete I am proposing for the path if you’re curious about it. I think it’s a great alternative to very expensive stone paving or boring concrete paving.

If you have read my website you know I love ponds. I’ve always had one since I was a kid and this garden will continue that tradition. The pond will be the piece-de- resistance, the final destination and focal point! This upper garden area will be leveled and the back of the pond will slope up to match existing grade at the fence line. This will create a backdrop of lush planting and the opportunity to build a tumbling waterfall in the the corner. I will build a “koi cave” into the side of the pond for the fish to escape predators and a small flagstone garden retreat at the water’s edge for me and Lois to escape at the end of the day with a glass of wine, a view of the water life at our feet, (without blocking the view from the courtyard), a glimpse of the garden and courtyard to our left and a view of the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains to our right.

Just around the back corner of the garage is a useless sloped lawn. But not after we’re finished… We will level it out and turn it into a veggie garden and keep the existing walnut tree that was planted long ago – beautiful tree.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the plan. I will follow up with demolition and construction pictures as things progress. Thanks again, I’ll be back soon.

Steve