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.

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