STYLISH & SUSTAINABLE
When clients and landscape designers share a vision the result can be a lush and lowmaintenance garden for all seasons.
In Seattle, a couple trades their flat front lawn for a compact garden with layers of plantings. In case you’re tempted to overhaul your own outdoor spaces, check out their pointers for working with landscape designers.
On a Seattle city street lined with a monotonous stretch of front lawns, one bright spot stops the eye. “If you drive past in the middle of the summer, there’s this explosion of color and texture that spans the entire front yard,” says local landscape designer Jessi Bloom of NW Bloom Ecological Services.
This plant-lovers’ paradise was once also covered in turf. Homeowners Cyle and Kelly Eldred loved their 1929 cottage but felt embarrassed by its “non-garden,” Cyle says. “We lived here for several years with nothing but a front lawn, and all along we knew we wanted to do something more with it.”
The desire for an eco-friendly and aesthetically pleasing garden was all the more important given Cyle’s association with
the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, where he worked as show designer from 2005 through 2014. “We wanted a beautiful space that would draw us outdoors—and one that we could enjoy looking at when we were inside,” Cyle says. “We both really liked Jessi’s philosophy and her free-form natural style, so working with her was a good fit.”
Designer and clients alike credit good communication and shared vision for the success of the final project. The 5,000-square-foot lot feels expansive thanks to the many layers of plantings. “I created spaces for plants of different sizes, textures, and depths,” Bloom says. Most significant is the transformed “hell strip,” a 4-foot section of once-compacted
turf located between the street curb and the sidewalk. It’s now a lavish border that greatly expands the front garden with cushy groundcovers, ornamental grasses, blooming shrubs, gold and burgundy foliage plants, and fragrant stands of lavender.
The area thrives because of its healthy soil that was developed before planting. “All the sod removed from elsewhere in the yard was piled up there and layered with topsoil to create a mounded berm. As the grass breaks down, it produces amazing organic matter, which is one of the reasons the plants are so happy,” Bloom says.
Hummingbird-friendly perennials, trees and shrubs, and a semi-hidden pathway of salvaged stepping-stones infuse the thoroughly urban setting with a secret-garden quality, alluring to people and pollinators alike.
Cyle and Kelly Eldred’s 1929 Seattle cottage is painted dark teal with plum trim—a perfect backdrop to the maroons, golds, and greens that color its front garden. Notable plants include the paperbark maple (Acer griseum), magenta cape fuchsia (Phygelius capensis ‘Magenta’), Chinese silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), and black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’).
According to Bloom, the Eldreds’ front garden is basically “two big rectangles and straight lines.” To soften the geometry, she selected blowsy perennials, grasses, and ornamental shrubs that feel carefree and informal. There’s a sense of verdant enclosure for pedestrians who stroll along the sidewalk.