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Hidden Paradise

How to turn a small, conventional, semi-urban landscape into a secluded multi-dimensional retreat, a place to relax and enjoy friends and family.

When I first looked at this site there was a very simple, conventional landscape.

It had three  large trees, a Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), a Flowering Pear and a Red Maple (Acer rubrum). There was also a very ugly hedge completely obscuring the railing of the wrap-around-porch. In addition the fencing came across to the house behind the wrap around porch and there was no access to the back yard. I made some very simple modifications, beginning with removing the Pear tree that was between the two other trees, removing the hedge, having the railing freshly painted, reducing the size of the lawn and creating access off the porch to the back yard. In addition brick pavers were installed over the existing concrete walkway to add more emphasis to the brick columns.

The front of the house faces east and receives only morning sun.

Shade plants were used for the new landscape. Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)  and Fortnight Lily (Dietes iridioides) were used in front of the columns to soften them and create visual interest. Silver Dragon Lilyturf (Liriope spicata ‘Silver Dragon’) was selected for the groundcover running the length of the porch. This is a great groundcover for shaded irrigated areas and it’s silvery foliage is a wonderful contrast to other foliage colors. Seasonal annuals flank the walkway and add color “pop” to the entrance.

We wanted to emphasize the cottage like feel of the front porch.

Evergreen Clematis vine (Clematis armandii) was trained on anchored galvanised wires to wrap around the eaves of the house. This is spectacular in the spring when it is covered with white flowers. Specimen plants in containers and statuary were added to the front porch and a seasonal banner display created a whimsical effect . Low voltage fixtures light up the columns at night and reflect light into the porch area for security. Low voltage lighting creates an extra dimension to any garden.

The existing fence was moved up to meet the columns and a new entrance gate to the back yard was designed and installed.

The gate  was designed to invite as well as separate the front from the back. It was painted to match the house and the entrance door and the front door to the house were both painted terra cotta. A doggie portal was designed into the gate to allow the dog to see the outside world and keep the barking to a minimum.

In this view through the entrance gate the back yard appears to be larger than it is.

Originally the back was similar to the front, just lawn and four small trees, no patio and no other plants. But we wanted to create a backyard retreat and a place that was conducive to entertaining friends and family. Adding the connection between the front and the back greatly enhanced the traffic flow and opened up many possibilities. In this view the detailing of the entrance structure to blend with the columns is apparent.

The two existing Trident Maples (Acer buergerianum) were framed with a raised brick planter that connects with the small fireplace.

The brick patio connects the entrance gate to the kitchen/family room doors and leads to the back patio. The area around the fireplace is a more intimate area visible from within the house, and a BBQ area was included here. There is allot going on here in a very small space, but it doesn’t feel crowded. Fern Pine (Afrocarpus gracilior), in the foreground, can become a small tree but is easily trained as an espalier to soften the side of the house.

The third Trident Maple and the Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) were kept and designed around.

We always try to work with existing trees, but sometimes they have to be removed because they are not in the right spot, are diseased or problematic. Concrete with a brick circle was used for the main patio area to keep the cost down. Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) was planted to cover the back fence and other tropical plants were selected primarily for their foliage contrast. Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) was used to cover the garage wall, this is a hardy tropical plant with huge leaves that thrives in the shade and is easy to keep trained.The privacy cover over the spa is temporary as a Giant Timber Bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii), a non-invasive clumping variety, was planted behind it and will eventually provide privacy from neighboring windows.

In this view back towards the entrance gate the complexity of this small garden becomes apparent.

Container plants are used to soften the corners and add interest to a patio. When designing a small space much thought must go into the flow of the space and how all the elements will fit together, but it is very possible to create a beautiful privacy retreat even with two-story windows looking down from all sides. Low voltage lighting was used throughout the yard to make the space enjoyable to use at night.

In this view taken during the summer, the layering possible in a small patio garden becomes apparent.

Using permanent plants in the background with container plants in the foreground adds to the dynamism of the space. The contrast between the white Angels Trumpet (Brugmansia spp.) and the red Dwarf Kangaroo Paws(Anigozanthos spp.) is striking. In the midground (hard to see) is a small fountain in the planting bed that adds a wonderful sound and visual element in a small garden. But be careful with the size of a fountain in a small space with reflected walls, the noise can sometimes be too loud.

More of the same two plants, the contrast is wonderful, they work well together.

Angels trumpet creates allot of drama in a garden when in bloom. The yellow flowered varieties are especially wonderful, and fragrant too!

Okay, enough already !






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