After doing the preliminary design (found here, here, and here) for J&E Dawson, I finally met with E and her landscaper, Wray Dix of Boulder Landscaping. They both loved the design. Yay! Jaw-dropping awe? You betcha! Lavish praise? Yes, there was!
But E did have some concerns and we discussed some changes. Understandable, especially since that was our first face-to-face meeting. Cost was the biggest concern – an entire castle garden (complete with glass gazebo, 50-foot arbor tunnel, 3 water features, and freestanding fireplace) in your backyard would be pretty pricey to install. Ridiculously awesome, but pricey.
Here’s a look again at that preliminary:
And here’s the reworked design, the Master Plan. Little bit different, eh?
Let’s review what changes took place.
W-block pavers (which were in the front and back) were nixed, in favor of concrete slabs. Now the slabs will connect the driveway to the front walk more directly (arrow 1). On the east side of the house, grass will replace the pavers as well as the expanded walkway/patio (arrow 2). And in the back, the concrete slabs are arranged in a more organic, casual way (arrow 3).
The entertaining area just out the back doors got a pretty big overhaul, but maintained the zones that J&E wanted. Here’s a side-by-side of the backyard’s master and preliminary plans.
First of all, the back porch, we found out, was for sure going in as a concrete patio (even though they were hoping for a deck) with stairs right off the house and an overhead pergola, which boils down to no outdoor kitchen corner.
Off the patio, the first zone is the dining table slightly to the right, in about the same place as before (arrow 1). To the left is a seating area (arrow 2), with a planting bed next to it, casually integrated into the slab hardscaping. Both the dining and seating areas got the same concrete-with-paver-border treatment to distinguish them as specific spots with specific functions, as well as to be a solid surface for the chairs, etc to more around on. And directly to the left of the patio is an herb garden (arrow 3), a little bit closer to the kitchen than the fenced garden.
Arrow 4 is something really special that E gets all the credit for. She came across a new water feature concept called natural pools. A natural pool isn’t from a natural underground spring; it’s entirely man-made. It’s also not a pool that just has a natural look to it with boulders and plants around the outside. Instead, it’s a pool that has a connected section for water-loving plants to grow. The plants act as a bio-filter – their roots removing bacteria – rather than using harsh chemicals, like chlorine. I won’t go into all the details, but HouseLogic has some good info on them here with gorgeous pictures. The one below from Woodhouse Natural Pools gives you a visual idea of what I’m talking about.
The natural pool in the Dawson’s design is much smaller, more like a kiddy pool or small pond, and is visible from the kitchen/dining room. It also sports a kid-sized copper fountain, inspired by this lovely one from Kevin Caron Studios:
Farther to the right of the natural pool/pond is a open, gravel area (arrow 5). J&E are thinking of someday creating a sort of mother-in-law’s apartment in their home and wanted an extra garage for such. So that spot was left empty, which also serves another purpose – it will allow Wray’s landscaping crew and trucks to be able to access the rest of the backyard (since J&E will be landscaping directly around the home first).
And now, onward and upward!
I find the side-by-side helpful, so there you go again.
The short retaining wall scooted forward about 10 or so feet, and instead of stacked stones, it’ll be made of brushed concrete to save some mullah while still looking nice and not industrial. (Arrow 1) The stairs are still lined with Malanyana Arborvitaes, with the addition of an Adirondack Flowering Crabapple on either end. And the shed moved up in sync with the retaining wall (arrow 2). Beyond that, most of the fancy stuff in the middle got 86’d in lieu of even more room to play soccer and a lot less shrubbery! to maintain. The area was also amended to be a little more kid-friendly with a playground and trampoline spot (arrow 3). Across from it, on the other side of the grass lake, is the ever-popular grove of fruit trees (arrow 4), where I also stuck some ol’ bird baths from the preliminary.
One major element from the original design that got to stay: the arbor tunnels! (Arrow 5) I shrunk them down, though, to be not sooo grandiose. But still grand. I think E fell in love with them and wasn’t willing to give them up. Which makes me so happy!
In the very back, I took out a bunch of evergreen trees and made the view symmetrical (arrow 1) when viewed from the house, with hedges, a Camperdown elm in the center (naturally, we couldn’t get rid of that!), and flanked by Kwanzan cherries.
The glass Sound of Music gazebo spot is now a secluded, gravel picnic patch (arrow 2) that opens to a path through the trees (arrow 3). And lastly, at arrow 4, we have a newcomer – a treehouse! Another J&E request for the kiddos. And since a big tree was already planned for that spot, a treehouse was a natural fit.
And there you have it. This version of the design is a nice mix of formal and informal. I think it feels like rustic Europe now – elegant with old world charm – instead of stately and opulent. Do you agree that this is more like a drive through the French or Italian countryside rather than a tour of some castle grounds?
Also, here’s a look at the plants that’ll be going in.