Magazine article Sunset

Garden Makeovers: Turning a Tired Landscape into a Dream Garden Takes Savvy Use of Space and Great Details. These Three Gardens Accomplished Both

Magazine article Sunset

Garden Makeovers: Turning a Tired Landscape into a Dream Garden Takes Savvy Use of Space and Great Details. These Three Gardens Accomplished Both

Article excerpt

Or gathering with friends in your private courtyard on a balmy summer eve with the heady scent of exotic flowers perfuming the air. Or throwing open the living room doors to hear the soothing sound of trickling water.

Such are the dreams of those who own a garden that's ripe for renovation. The owners and designers pictured on these pages made dreams a reality by completely overhauling their gardens. They banished scraggly lawns, tamed the tangles of overgrown shrubbery, and planted the patches of dirt. They added new recreation and entertaining amenities, and improved access into and around their gardens. These makeovers illustrate the ways that any area of the garden--front, side, or back of the house-can be transformed from wasted ground into attractive open-air rooms that make the best use of available space.

the backyard

"When we came to Tiger Mountain nine years ago," says owner/landscape designer Natyam Schraven of Issaquah, Washington, "we found our new property landscaped with a rotting little deck, overgrown English laurels almost coming through the kitchen windows, a struggling patch of lawn, and lots of large native hemlocks, firs, and maples. There was no place to entertain, and the whole property was dark."

Schraven and his wife, Leslie Wener, began the renovation process by deciding what they wanted in their garden--more light everywhere, a deck, and a pond--then coming up with a general plan.

The rear garden is the landscapes tour de force. Schraven and his business partner, Britton Shepard, built a clear cedar deck whose curved edge anticipated the line of the pond that would follow. They sculpted the pond's concrete edges, spattered the concrete with latex paint to mimic the color and texture of natural stone, and made in-the-pond planting pockets for water plants.


Not enough light.

No room for outdoor entertaining.

Very limited plant palette.

Not enough time to do the whole job at once.

No irrigation system.


Remove some trees to let in light; prune back English laurels.

Build a deck for entertaining and a pond for beauty (and for koi).

Add shade-tolerant plants in shadier areas. Create pockets for irises and water lilies in the pond.

Complete the work in stages over several years.

DESIGN: Elan Landscape Design & Build, Issaquah, WA(206/568-0220 or

the front yard

Three years ago, Berkeley landscape designers Lisa and Tim Goodman purchased what Lisa calls a "confused Monterey colonial home" built in 1933. "Nothing had been done to the house or garden since that time," she explains. The Goodmans "decolonialized" the home by adding wooden beams and railings, which gave it a Spanish flavor and set the stage for a courtyard and flourishing Mediterranean garden in the front yard.

In an existing courtyard, the Goodmans removed an old boxwood hedge that cramped the area, tore out the lawn, and added a multilevel flagstone patio and fountain. They also saved a mature olive tree.

Outside the wall, they sacrificed two huge arborvitae trees, improving access to the front door. The two-story house still needed large trees to anchor it to its surroundings, so the Goodmans splurged on five tall palms, which gave the garden instant drama. …

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