Magazine article Sunset

Side-Yard Solutions

Magazine article Sunset

Side-Yard Solutions

Article excerpt

How to turn the narrow, leftover space alongside your house into a garden asset

The side yard is the runt of the garden litter-one of the most challenging and overlooked outdoor spaces. Its proportions pose landscaping dilemmas to most homeowners. Setback ordinances, proximity to fences and neighboring homes, an apparent lack of privacy and limited sunlight also conspire against it. However, deftly handled, a side yard can be surprisingly inviting.

As these four examples show, lush planting and espaliered vines aren't the only way to go. With careful planning, you can use the type of hardscaping elements often found only in a more spacious garden at the rear of the house-including pathways, seating areas, water features, and lighting. Three of the side yards shown here use such devices to enhance the home's passage from front to rear. Another is a minuscule, dead-end space that was rescued from oblivion by a wall fountain and a pond.

fountain alley

A set of new French doors open on a once-ignored side yard and its fountain. The buff-colored concrete path-with inset terra-cotta tiles- is bordered by urns resting on pads that echo the smaller tile shapes.

DESIGN: Bernard Trainor Design Associates (650/569-3163)

* meander

A serpentine path of stone and Scotch moss broadens to make a private patio. The simple overhead structure, running from eave to fence, supports shading vines; a low but broad step next to the house leads to a pair of doors that replaced a window. Other inviting touches include a Japanese-style arching bridge over a dry streambed, a large container of water plants, a cast-iron table and chairs, and drought-tolerant plants. The gate at the back of the photo faces the street, and a redwood-and-bamboo gate at the rear end isolates the side-yard world designed by owners Janne and Bill Mahan of Menlo Park, California.

* Squeeze play

Built at window height, this sculpture, tile backdrop, and elevated pool fit snugly in a 5-foot-wide area between house and fence. A submerged light in the lily-filled pond creates a night-time focal point for guests seated in the dining room. Bamboo growing in the raised planter behind the tiled wall adds privacy screening.

DESIGN: Michael Glassman and Associates, Sacramento (916/444-1275)

* Asian accents

This multilayered garden includes clumping black bamboo, a shallow pond with river-rock edging, Japanese maples, low-growing mondo grass, and stepping pads of black canterra tiles. …

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