Can you believe it has been 80 degrees off and on already this year? Summer is suddenly upon us. We've been cracking on at Stone Soup Gardens this year, so much so that I haven't had a chance to tell you about all the cool gardens we've been creating. This one is particularly close to Stone Soup Gardens heart, as our clients just moved here from Boston to be closer to their grandchild (Little Miss Luna Klein-Harris).
The house initially had a fabulous willow tree in the front yard which was a selling point for the new owners. However, once the fall storms hit last year, the tree split in two with all the rain, and we had no choice but to remove the remainder of the tree. It was a sad day, but it left us with great potential for creating a dappled light garden in front of the house, as well as borders for all of the beds and raingarden. Sometimes, nature destroys and provides.
This project was a huge overhaul! Not only for the garden, but also for the house itself. While we were plugging away on the landscaping, the contractors added a big addition to the home to create a writing nook, as well as indoor access from the garage to the house. Not to mention an entire reconfiguration of the existing space.
Stone Soupers had their hands full as well. We created a new retaining wall around the perimeter of the yard. We interspersed mortarted stone with hand laid stone, as well as a more traditional tumbling rock wall. We built new pathways around the front yard, and added stairs from the driveway up to the entrance of the house for ease of access.
And that is just the front of the house! Along the back of the house, we installed a large cistern. On the side we built out several flower beds using the logs from the old willow tree. We also created a kidney-shaped mortared stone raised bed. Between the garage and the neighbors house we will be installing a flagstone pathway, along with a sun shaped inlaid flagstone patio in the nook outside the back door.
Pretty great, right? Here is the finished garden. We are super pleased with how it turned out. What do you think?
For five years our client was unable to reach the backyard from the deck without having to circumnavigate the house. Due to this, the backyard didn't see much action, or much love. In cases like this, it is great to be able to reunite people with the landscapes that they intimately live with.
We designed and built steps from the second floor deck that would enable to owners, their kids, and their dog, the ability to use the backyard as a gathering space. We built a small flagstone patio, and will eventually plant out the garden to create a bit more privacy and greenery to cozy up the area and make it a destination, rather than just an inaccessible eyesore.
We also installed tiered greenbeds in the front yard, and a cistern along the side of the house that they can use to water the vegetables with. All in all, a lovely project, and so great to see the yard become a favorite spot for the family to enjoy.
Stage 3: Next up... plants!
With Seattle being hilly, yard space is often sculpted around unusual terrain. We see this fairly often, and find many owners that are at a loss on how to take full advantage of these uneven spaces. As well as being difficult to envision, the spaces are generally hard to tame, manage, or manipulate into something worth enjoying.
Stone Soup Gardens loves these kinds of challenges. Whether you have a steep slope, a soggy pit, or a hilly blackberry divide, we can turn your unused space into something for you and your family to enjoy. We can create a functional area for growing edible plants, or create a level retreat for those sunny spring and summer days.
One of our clients in Columbia City has just such a space. While the yard area itself is fairly level, it is raised up sharply on a hill overlooking the street, and the backyard was a bramble patch. Seeing the unused potential of the area, our client contacted us to see what we could do. Hence, the great berry wall came into play.
The great berry wall was built using downed timber from a local contact. We had the majority of the logs cut to a specific size, while others we trimmed to create easy step access in and out of the raised bed. This allows for ease of picking as the berries come into season, as well as for watering and pruning once summer and fall roll around.
We planted the raised bed out with different types of raspberries, strawberries, gumi berries, lingon berries, thimbleberry, chilean guava, lavender, and sage, as well as espalier apples and pears, chives, and red flowering currant in other parts of the yard. This means that there will be a good selection of plants that stay green throughout the year, as well as those that will shed their leaves during the winter. It also creates a nice color palette for the eyes, as well as flavors for the mouth!
For a bit of flare, we also included a bike wheel arbor along the front wall of the house, which was a great way to add interest, while providing a surface for things to climb on. We installed a laundry to landscape greywater system in the front yard which will water the espalier trees and herbs, and in the backyard we installed a cistern to side sewer which will provide water for the raised bed in the backyard.
Take a look at the project beforehand:
And here it is now:
As the weather gradually warms, and the crocuses pop, our crew is busily maneuvering through the sometimes muddy, sometimes snowy world of landscaping. It's been nonstop around here as we work to finish off projects and begin new ones. Here is a peak at what we've been up to lately:
Installing a backyard deck and brick paver patio
Building a raised faswall bed, a pocket fence, and installing plants
Building a Catio
Not everyone has a perfectly square flat space in which to build a garden. Working throughout Seattle, we often run across weird shapes, angry slopes, and poor drainage issues. For this client, we had a weird space flanked by neighbors, a fairly steep slope, and drainage that we needed to prevent from ending up in our client's home, as well as the neighbors down below.
We started by creating a tiered path with stairs that would run the length of the home. To improve drainage we used crushed gravel for the path which will help water seep into the ground, rather than slaloming down the slope into the neighbors backyard.
This house also qualified for two rebatable cisterns through the SPU Rainwise Program. Those two cisterns will collect the roof runoff and help prevent additional drainage issues in the yard. Here are a few before pictures as we started on the project.
The raised Faswall bed we installed is a great option for homeowners. Attractive, non-toxic, and durable, these beds are made from 60% recycled content and are resistant to mold, rot and decay. A perfect combination for our rainy northwest weather. They are also said to last for centuries, but we have yet to test this theory.
The homeowner, having seen our other flagstone patio work, decided she wanted a mosaic along the pathway. We took this one step further by also designing her a flower mosaic for the stairs. While these pathways are time and labor intensive, the results tend to speak for themselves.
This was a great little project we just completed. Our clients wanted to create a more hospitable space in the backyard in order to attract more AirBnB guests, as well as for themselves. The backyard used to be a sloped, weedy, wet mess. We leveled the space, and created a nice flat gravel patio for outdoor fires, complete with fire pit. Leveling and using the gravel will help keep the space from becoming oversaturated with water during the rainy winters. We also used varying colors and textures of bark to delineate spaces and to add a nice aesthetic appeal in the garden.
To further assist with drainage, we built a dispersion swale which will direct the water as it flows through the gravel. The swale is also a nice visual feature, as we used river rock to mimic the look of a stream bed and logs as a foot stepping path to the outer reaches of the yard. Our clients also qualified for a rebate on a cistern, which we installed along the side of the house. Since the cistern isn't located in a place that creates great water pressure for watering the backyard, we installed a small pump to assist with building pressure, so our clients can water their new space using rain collected from their roof.
The best feature of this yard, however, is really our Hugelculture raised bed made from repurposed logs. This arc shaped bed is a lovely focal point for the space, while creating additional seating for that outdoor fire.
It isn't everyday that we get to see a house and a yard go through such a transformation, but for this client, changing the landscape was essential to drawing the eye into the reframing of the house.
The house sits down in the yard quite a bit below street level. In order to help prevent flooding and to create a natural water friendly environment, we created a tiered, winding, and sloped pathway which brings you to the front door of the home. The pathway is gravel, a permeable surface, to ensure maximum drainage from street level to the level of the house. This river like effect allows the rainfall to naturally seep into the ground, rather than rushing down a hard surface such as the previous sidewalk.
We used flagstone on the steps and a complementary paver for the patio outside of the front door. Recycled logs and boulders provide the retaining walls for the tiered beds, and a small flagstone pathway creates a walkway from the sidewalk. We also tucked a small raingarden into the southwest corner of the yard which will provide catchment and further drainage from the tiered raised beds.
Our clients are thrilled! I spoke to them briefly when I stopped by to photograph the new digs and they said that it was a lovely space to spend time in. They mentioned that people walking past often stop by to admire the design, and whenever friends or family come round the house they comment on just how nice it is. I'm not sure we can do much better than that.
In 2014, our clients asked us to do a compete renovation on their backyard. We installed a stone patio, hugelculture beds, mushroom beds, and did a general clean up of the yard. This year, they asked to come back and do some sprucing in the front yard. While the yard is small, they've done a lovely job creating more interest in the front with the recent painting of the house.
To create more visual interest, we created a nice stone wall along both sides of the driveway. We added some new edibles such as huckleberry, blueberry, lingonberries, and mulberries. Not to mention artichokes, wild ginger, an Italian plum, lavender, echinacea, and more. This layering of plants will be a nice touch of color, and will also tie in nicely with the new house color. To finish, we added a new gate to the backyard and put in the trough for containing those wily herbs. A fun little project, to be sure.
To give a bit shade to the front porch, we added a cute little arbor and put in some evergreen huckleberry, ceanothus, and a daphne to create a layered color palette that will compliment the home. Stay tuned to watch how this little garden grows!
Project overhauls are often some of the most fun and challenging to do. This Columbia City home owner was looking for a modern update on their existing back deck.
The homeowner was looking to capitalize on the cistern rebate which they were eligible for through the Rainwise Program, and opted to install a cistern next to the house. They also asked for a raised bed to be incorporated into the design, to provide them a bit of growing space which could be accessible from the deck.
Our designer, Aaron Buchholz, went to work and came up with a cedar deck with an L-shaped raised bed, new stairs into the home, and of course the pergola! The design also included an elevated base for the cistern, along with an arbor duct which runs from the guttering on both sides of the house, directly into the cistern. Once the design was approved by our client, our team went to work!
Thanks to our carpenter extraordinaire, Trevor Madsen, along with the rest of our fabulous crew, we completed the deck, the staining, and the details despite the weather challenges. The result was this lovely pergola which will provide a patch of shade in the summer, a cistern which will collect the rainwater for the garden while helping with storm water overflow, and a deck that will be a wonderful gathering spot for the family for years to come.
This is how Stone Soup Gardens rolls - check out our blog for current, upcoming, and past projects, events, and other super cool stuff worth mentioning.