Creating a Memorable Garden Combining Form & Function

By Linsey Stonchus

A beautifully done garden extends the livability of a home outdoors, offering wellness benefits, beauty and an overall sense of tranquility.

Creating an unforgettable garden requires a balance of function and form – first considering the necessary must-haves for living, and then plants, art and other elements that enhance the overall space.

“Set up for function first – [clients] see the landscape and the garden as an extension to live in from the interior space,” said Richard Hartlage, founding principal and owner of  Land Morphology, Seattle.

“We don’t do a project without a fire feature these days and, then, dining and the outdoor kitchen,” he said.

Mr. Hartlage has decades of experience in landscape architecture, working on residential and commercial projects from coast-to-coast in the United States. What are some of the latest garden trends he has witnessed?

“All of those functional elements go in first and then we build up that theme with plants,” Mr. Hartlage said.

 

Safe Arbor

Outdoor dining, lounging and kitchens are among the top requests, according to Mr. Hartlage, along with swimming pools or spas for smaller yards.

Frequently requested in the Seattle area are arbors, which extend the usefulness of gardens by a month or two during colder months. Mr. Hartlage often installs heaters and roofs for extended longevity.

“All of those functional elements go in first and then we build up that theme with plants,” Mr. Hartlage said.

“If you have more space, it’s really the plants that then you can expand on, now that you have crossed the threshold of creating the living spaces,” he said.

Currently, popular plants include grasses such as bamboo, calama and hakone.

Particularly popular in Seattle are broadleaf evergreens, holly trees, magnolia trees, camellias, hellebores and pittosporum.

Additionally, Mr. Hartlage notes hedges were not trendy for a long time but are making a return as they act as “the frame that holds the picture” with their crisp lines and structure.

Mr. Hartlage also observed a greater demand in color, both in plants or painted accents, with blue, orange and yellow being among those frequently requested.

The use of color is all about creating a certain ambience, adding a playfulness to the overall design.

Florals, too, ensure a garden offers fragrance, further enhancing the overall atmosphere of the garden.

Activities ranging from swimming to basketball can be prefaced with a pleasant stroll through the garden.

 

Material Changes

In terms of materials, bluestone is a top choice throughout the U.S., whereas concrete is received differently among various regions.

In Seattle, concrete is very popular, while Northeastern clients perceive it as “cheap” and prefer asphalt or gravel.

Where concrete is in high demand, Mr. Hartlage makes the material bolder through distinctive score patterns.

One of the most exciting things to incorporate within a garden of sufficient size is trails.

Trails transform art displays or amenity placements into destinations of their own, rather than positioning everything just outside the home. Mr. Hartlage recommends at least two acres to accomplish this, but preferably more than five.

Activities ranging from swimming to basketball can be prefaced with a pleasant stroll through the garden.

Meanwhile, large art pieces will be better enjoyed individually with plenty of air around it, rather than kept cluttered together.

Mr. Hartlage’s advice is to consider function first: What are the most essential amenities? Where will they fit? How shall the theme relate to these essentials?

Following that, the theme can then be expanded through plants and art, while also taking into consideration the size of the space.

Accents and art should never clutter smaller gardens.

Meanwhile, larger properties can take advantage of acreage through the installation of trails, turning everyday use of a home’s amenities into mini-events.

BALANCING FUNCTION and form is essential to the overall feeling that a garden facilitates.

“You know when a place feels right,” Mr. Hartlage said.

“You can tell if it’s beautiful, that you’re comfortable or inspired,” he said. “You don’t have to be trained in a design tradition. It all holds together.”

 

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