Did you know that interacting with nature provides healing benefits to your body and mind? It’s true. Research has shown that within minutes of moving outside, positive changes occur in the body, such as lower blood pressure, decreased heart rate, reduced stress, and improved mood.
A recent community project at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center has inspired us to revisit the specific elements that can bring a sense of rest and healing to a home landscape. Having a place to unwind, relax, and recharge is a gift, especially if you live a busy life on the go.
The Sanctuary Garden, by Christopher and Tricia McDowell, highlights seven design elements of a peaceful space. Whether it’s for just one corner in the yard or a whole property transformation, using these strategies makes it easy to refresh yourself with restful time outdoors.
Enhance Your Garden Entrance
Use a naturally-styled pathway, hedge, steps, or fence to make entering the sanctuary feel special. This boundary can be soft or firm, depending on the level of privacy desired.
Use Soothing Waters
A water feature doesn’t have to be elaborate to evoke a relaxing feel. Even a simple rock bubbler provides pleasing sounds and visual appeal. For larger spaces, a pond or waterfall puts nature’s beauty just steps away from your door.
Will you be spending time in your sanctuary in the early mornings or evenings? Use low-wattage or LED lighting to set off plants and decorative features to their best advantage when natural light is low. Create beautiful shadows and draw attention to subtle colors and textures of your flowers and plants with discreetly placed lights.
Provide a Resting Place
Whether it’s a single bench or a suite of comfortable garden furniture, pick a spot or two that invites visitors to sit down and stay a while. Consider adding an outdoor bookshelf or blanket box to make it easy to kick back and relax.
Mimic Mother Nature
There’s no better guide to design than Mother Nature for a sanctuary garden. Use natural materials in combination: rocks and boulders, ornamental grasses, wood, shrubs, and flowers. Have a favorite hiking spot or viewpoint? Bring a few elements home with you. You might pair trees and wildflowers, boulders and water, or rocks and ferns to create the feel you love.
Add Pleasure With Garden Art
Accent the natural beauty of your space with an art piece that enhances the mood you’d like to set. Consider colorful ceramic pots, a wind-powered sculpture, or a playful statue to complement the style of your home and continue it in the sanctuary.
Invite Beautiful Visitors
Provide habitat and features to attract birds and butterflies. Using native plants often pays rewards here, as they are conditioned to thrive in the local environment and offer a suitable home to your neighborhood birds. Add a birdbath or feeder to encourage visits from your favorites.
Not sure what to plant? Talk to our landscaping team. We have decades of local experience and will give you our best tips for plant materials that fit your level of interest and design aesthetic.
Following two, three, or all seven of the design principles above will bring you closer to having your own healing sanctuary. The Frontier Landscaping team would be happy to talk to you about the vision you have and how to effectively make it a reality.
“Getting away from it all” might be a lot closer than you think! Call (360) 574-8979 or send us an email to arrange a consultation today.
Investing in curb appeal is a triple win: it establishes beauty you can enjoy every day, creates an irresistible invitation to potential buyers, and adds tangible value to your home. Here are four of our best strategies for maximizing the impact of your home’s first impressions.
Get Green and Clean (and Stay There)
First things first: proper landscape maintenance works wonders. Green lawns, pruned shrubs, and weed-free flowerbeds surrounded by a fresh layer of bark dust are straightforward ways to create a manicured, attractive atmosphere.
If you’ve been complacent about keeping up the landscape, take another look at your reasons. It’s highly likely that the solution you need is simpler than you think.
Too short of time? Hire a maintenance crew to handle these regular tasks for you. Frontier’s maintenance agreements can be customized to offer support that’s tailored to the needs of your landscape.
Trying to save on water? Earth-friendly drip irrigation allows you to add water where it’s needed. Sprinkler systems with rain sensors keep the sprinklers quiet on the days Mother Nature takes care of watering the landscape.
Tired of overgrown or outdated plants? It’s hard to be motivated to maintain plants you don’t like. Upgrade to plantings that make sense for you and working with them becomes a treat instead of a burden. Consider fresh ornamentals to attract birds & butterflies, double-duty beds that are decorative and grow edibles, or native plantings that need little attention to look good.
Highlight with Hardscaping
Hardscaping refers to the non-living elements of your landscape design. Adding dramatic boulders, understated accent rockery, or a focal point like a dry creek bed brings contrast and texture – things that are fundamentally appealing to the eye.
Rocks and boulders will look sharp for the long haul and won’t die out, need pruning, or suffer from hot summers and cold winters. Dry creek beds do triple duty by reducing lawn care, providing excellent drainage, and looking gorgeous across all four seasons of the year.
Take Advantage of Native Plantings
Native plantings keep your property looking sharp without needing much tending at all. Because they are perfectly suited to the water, light, and soil conditions of the local environment, they can thrive on their own once established. Pick the right plants and you can even stop or reduce irrigation after the first two years–things will keep growing for you to enjoy, naturally.
Dwarf spirea ‘Golden elf’
One way to make upkeep even easier is to feature dwarf varieties of your favorite native plants. They’ll be beautiful but won’t cause headaches by sprawling out of control as they mature.
Light With Purpose
A few mindful changes in your front yard lighting go a long way to creating a ‘wow’ impact. Do you have an interesting front door, pathway, or stonework? Add fixtures that play up the uniqueness of your home and accentuate its curves and angles.
Mature trees become dramatic centerpieces with the addition of uplights to emphasize their structure and foliage.
Make the Call
Are you ready to update or reinvent your approach to curb appeal? We’d love to discuss your goals and can offer expert insights to help create a look you’ll love for years to come.
Call (360) 574-8979 or send us an email to arrange a consultation today.
Front yard makeovers offer high potential for impact. A great design boosts curb appeal, property value, and can be enjoyed every single day.
In the Pacific Northwest, it’s no surprise that a long winter spent poring over design ideas on Pinterest, Houzz, and HGTV, has many homeowners deciding to pull the trigger on landscaping projects during the warming days of spring. It’s one of our favorite seasons of the year.
However, after nearly three decades in the landscaping business, we’ve observed two types of projects that will inevitably keep us running at full speed while the sun is out: designing and implementing yard makeovers, and doing repair work and damage control on makeovers gone wrong.
While we’re glad to help solve headaches, we’re even more pleased when we can prevent them from happening in the first place. With that in mind, here are the three top mistakes we see time and time again. A little time spent in education and planning now will ensure your project is on the right track for success.
Front Yard Makeover Mistake #1 – Overplanting
One of the realities of putting in new plants is that you must leave room for each piece to grow to maturity. This can be tricky because young plantings are small and may not seem like they are making the statement you hoped for when they first go in the ground. It’s tempting to cheat on the recommended spacing so you get a fuller effect from day one.
Don’t do it! Overplanting causes multiple problems: labor-intensive maintenance, limited success of the plant material, and a higher likelihood of failure.
For example, if a 5×5 shrub is planted in a 3×3 space, it will need to be pruned continually to maintain its boundaries. Being short-circuited from reaching full size will also prevent it from doing what it’s supposed to do in the landscape (bloom as well, get as tall, etc). A crowded growth habit can easily turn into an unwanted ‘thicket effect’ — a haven for pests and diseases.
Don’t fall into overplanting in an attempt to produce a mature garden look as soon as your project is finished. Having the foresight and self-control to leave space in the landscape for healthy growth is the key to making it easy to maintain your yard’s beauty in the long term.
Front Yard Makeover Mistake #2 – Planting in the Wrong Location
Beautiful trees, shrubs, and ornamentals can turn into money thrown down the drain when they are planted in the wrong location. Just because something might look good in a certain position in the yard does not mean that spot is well-suited for it. Color and texture are excellent to consider, but soil, water, and light are the factors that should trump all when it comes to placement in your yard.
Do your homework: check soil quality, know how wet/dry/sunny/windy the location is, and double-check the compatibility of each tree, shrub, or flower with the other plants you’d like to place nearby. Pay close attention to mature height and width. For example, as a young tree grows and spreads, it will provide shade to a larger area, changing the amount of light available to plants nearby.
Check in with a knowledgeable local source to get specifics on how various plant materials perform in your specific microclimate. There may be a big difference between the promises of a stock issued plant label from a big box store and the actual performance of the plant in the soil, water, and light conditions of your neighborhood.
Front Yard Makeover Mistake #3 – Underestimating Tree Size
A healthy, beautiful tree (or several) can be one of the most rewarding components of a front yard makeover. Trees act as visual anchors in design, provide shade and shelter, offer habitat for birds and wildlife, and can be enjoyed by family members for decades.
On the flip side, poor planning with trees opens the door for danger and destruction as the years go on. The most common issues nearly always arise from underestimating the size of the mature tree.
For example, while a line of trees planted in a median strip between the sidewalk and road may seem a pretty way offer privacy and sound screening, a buckling sidewalk and protruding tree roots in a few years may saddle you with a costly extraction if they grow larger than you anticipated. Taking the time to confirm mature size of the trees you’re using is always worthwhile.
Another classic example comes from the Leyland cypress and English laurels which are familiar sights throughout the greater Clark County and Portland Metro area. If you have one of these giants on your plant list, keep in mind that they frequently need significant intervention. These trees grow large very quickly and aren’t strong enough to withstand winter storms if they’re top heavy and then weighted down with snow or ice.
Leyland Cypress. Weak and messy, they perform well when consistently maintained. More info: Frontier Tree Service
The good news is you can virtually eliminate the danger of failures like these by committing to a consistent maintenance schedule for the trees you’ve planted. For example, both Leyland cypress and English laurels make excellent hedges for screening when regularly pruned to maintain healthy attachments and growth habit. Whether you’re inheriting trees or planting new ones, a consult and maintenance plan with Frontier Tree Service‘s ISA-certified arborists will ensure your success.
Now that you know what not to do, check in with Frontier Landscaping to explore all of the things you can do to make your front yard makeover a dream come true. Whether you have questions about plant material, soil testing, or tried-and-true methods for local success, we would love to help you put together a yard that will yield beautiful rewards for years to come.
Give us a call at (360) 574-8979, or send us an email: [email protected].
When sketching your front yard makeover ideas, remember to think for the long term. Leave space for plantings to grow up and fill out. Double-check that the materials you’re choosing will have compatible requirements for light and water. Account for regular pruning and maintenance to keep your trees safe. These three keys ensure an attractive mature landscape for years to come.
Hardscapes are composed of the non-living elements of your landscape design. These may include walkways, patios, walls, arbors, fences, lighting, and more. When a hardscape is developed to express a natural design aesthetic, it’s fun because the ‘hard’ pieces (gravel, rocks, and boulders) often play off of nature’s ‘softest’ elements: spongy ground covers, textured bark, and water.
Rocks and Boulders
Does the thought of hauling huge rocks into your yard seem a little strange? It’s not unusual for clients to give us a raised eyebrow or two when we assess their design goals and suggest bringing in boulders and rocks.
Truth be told, natural hardscape designs almost always include accent rockery. Think about the views you encounter when out on a hike. Elements are rarely standing alone: it’s a combination of rocks, grasses, trees and water that work together to create nature’s beauty.
In the installation below, a backyard water feature moved from ordinary to enchanting when we mirrored the composition of Mother Nature.
Fir trees cleared during the home’s construction were repurposed to create this stream, fed by a custom pond above. The strategic placement of large boulders and accent rocks brings power and definition to the piece, maximizing its beauty in the landscape.
Slate and Flagstone
Hardscapes have a few workhorse elements, and slate and flagstone are longtime favorites. These materials are available in myriad colors, shapes, textures, and sizes. While a formal look calls for a tight “jigsaw” style perfect fit of pieces, a charming transformation occurs when we stretch out to 2-4 inches of space between each.
Taking cues from English gardens, these pathways and patio have been spaced widely to allow hardy groundcover to grow in around each piece of stone. Irish moss, Corsican mint, and Blue Star creeper all shine when put to use in this way.
If you’re considering a naturalized area for seating or dining, keep in mind that flagstone is more textured and makes for a bumpier surface for your tables and chairs. Larger pieces with wider bases will allow you to sit more comfortably.
Paver-style stones can offer natural texture in conveniently standardized sizing, typically 18×18 or 24×24 inches. Considerations for slope, drainage, and planned use in your landscape will all play a part in determining which material is best for your project.
Get Your Look
After nearly three decades of residential and commercial installations, we’re still energized by the process of finding the “just right” balance of hardscaping and plantings for our clients. Are you ready to trade a monotone view for natural beauty around your home or business?
Call (360) 574-8979 or send us an email to arrange a consultation today.
Further Reading on Hardscapes:
Rain gardens are growing in popularity as drainage solutions for environmentally-conscious property owners. These carefully-designed landscapes add more than beauty to their surroundings. They are proven to have a significant impact in reducing the flow of contaminated water from urban areas to wetlands, streams, lakes, and other natural waterways.
Installing a rain garden is a powerful way to directly contribute a positive impact on the environment surrounding your home or business.
Why Do Rain Gardens Matter?
As communities grow and develop, buildings, roads, and rooftops replace native habitats. During times of precipitation, the original flow of water through the enviroscape is disturbed. Instead of being naturally filtered through pre-existing forests and soil, stormwater now flows at a high rate over hard surfaces and carries man-made pollutants with it. Erosion and increased flooding become problematic.
Additionally, the higher flow rate of water and contaminants that result from development cause real problems for regional aquatic life and water resources. However, rain gardens offer an exciting array of solutions.
- Slow erosion and alleviate flooding
- Decrease pollution and waste.
- Clean runoff naturally
- Reduce the workload for wastewater facilities
- Can be created in public and private spaces of any shape and size, including businesses, residences, or public spaces
What Is A Rain Garden?
Rain gardens are bowl-shaped depressions in a landscape that collect and clean rainwater runoff from hard surfaces nearby, like driveways, roofs, parking areas, and patios.
They are designed with special soil mixes that allow speedy absorption of water — usually a combination of sand, topsoil, and compost. This amended soil filters runoff and also supports a variety of plant growth.
Note: Rain gardens are not permanent ponds. They are sized to allow temporary pooling after rain. In a well-designed garden, all water passes through very quickly, typically from one to two hours (maximum of one to two days) after a storm. This prevents stagnation and mosquitoes.
Photo: WSU Extension
There are a number of ways water can be diverted to a rain garden through a landscape. It may be that one approach works well for a back yard/patio area, but a different one is more effective for dealing with runoff issues in the front.
Design Features of a Rain Garden
Soil is where it all begins. Reworking the ground to provide the right blend of soil, sand, and compost is critical to having a healthy rain garden. Absorption, drainage, and filtration all rests on getting this foundation prepared correctly.
There are three planting zones in a rain garden:
Zone 1 The wettest area, at the bottom of the rain garden. Important to install plants in this zone that can handle “wet feet” for several hours at a time.
Zone 2 The sloped sides of the garden, which may become wet from time to time. Plants here provide stability and prevent erosion.
Zone 3 The perimeter of the rain garden, with the driest soil.
Since rain garden design is based on earth-friendly practice, using native plantings to fill out the three zones makes a lot of sense. Native plants create a nourishing habitat for local wildlife, birds, butterflies, and other important pollinators.
Photo: Washington State Department of Ecology
“Plants and soil work together in the rain garden. The plant roots and soil organisms build soil structure, create channels and pores to soak up and filter water, and improve nutrient and oxygen availability necessary to support an abundance of life. While plants help the rain garden absorb stormwater, they also create an attractive landscape for your yard and neighborhood.” — WSU Extension, Rain Garden Handbook for Western WA
How to Know If A Rain Garden Is Right For You
A rain garden may be a good fit for you if you answer “yes” to the following questions:
- Do you want to improve the landscaping and appearance of your property?
- Would you like to directly reduce the amount of pollutants reaching groundwater and storm drains in your community (as well as wetlands, streams, and other natural waters)?
- Would you like to reduce flooding, prevent sewer overflows, and erosion in streams by absorbing runoff from hard surfaces?
- Is providing habitat for beneficial insects and birds important to you?
- Would you like to be responsible for recharging local groundwater by increasing the amount of water that soaks into the ground on your property
Let’s Get To Work
Frontier Landscaping offers professional expertise and support for residential and commercial clients committed to environmentally-conscious landscaping. While the best time for testing soil drainage and groundwater levels is in late winter months, we are available to walk you through the planning process for a rain garden at any time of year:
- Site assessment & testing
- Garden location
- Soil amendment & excavation
- Planting requirements
- Design aesthetic
- Maintenance goals
- Compliance with city/county regulations
- Long-term success
Call (360) 574-8979 or email us to get started on your path to a cleaner, greener future.
Additional Reading: Washington State Extension Rain Garden Guide
Dry creek beds provide attractive, functional relief, especially if your landscape is plagued by standing water. In the wet PNW, drainage problems are a common headache. Do any of these sound familiar?
- Flooded flower beds
- Pooling water below a deck
- Swampy places in the lawn
- Puddles around a foundation
Leaving drainage issues unaddressed has serious consequences, from dead lawn and plants to costly repairs and decreased property value.
The Good News
Frontier Landscaping has years of experience designing and implementing features that effectively carry water away from problem areas. Dry creek beds are star performers, particularly in sloped terrain. They work twice as hard for a landscape by running water from Point A to B, and standing alone as an attractive feature in drier months of the year.
“Even property owners with no drainage issues may choose to install a dry creek bed due to the elements of natural beauty in the way they look.”
Controlling Water Flow
Dry creek beds are an excellent choice for addressing places in the landscape that are hard-hit by heavy rains. While a flat place in the yard may benefit more from a simple lawn drain, gradients and hillsides need the water capacity and speed that a dry creek bed can provide during extreme conditions. Effectively redirecting the flow of water saves you from ongoing erosion and long-term damage.
When property owners are looking for a greener way to landscape, dry creek beds play an exciting role. Different-sized rocks, boulders, and choice plantings give eye-pleasing texture to outdoor spaces, but require much less water than an expanse of lawn. While bark dust alone can look flat, a dry creek bed introduces definition and contrast. It’s aesthetically pleasing and earth-friendly — a winning combination.
Dry Creek Beds for Natural Beauty
We regularly install dry creek beds to add natural beauty to a landscape. Expertly balancing a few key ingredients (a natural shape, native plantings, multiple sizes of stone) brings a natural, organic flow to an area. The results are breathtaking in any season, wet or dry.
No two landscapes are exactly alike, and the solution that works for one may not work for another. While dry creek beds are particularly suited to slopes and hillsides, they aren’t usually the best choice for flat ground.
Other elements, like French drains, catch basins, and lawn drains also have a part to play — and that’s just the beginning. Frontier’s installation team has years of experience solving drainage problems for local property owners.
French drain pipe (L), installed as a garden path (R).
French drains are a functional solution for flat terrain and less water. They often have a part to play in designing an overall solution for moving water in a landscape. Read more about them here.
Ranging in size from 6 to 24 inches, catch basins can be square or circular. These grated drains are typically placed alongside a driveway or in a low or sloped spot in the yard or hardscaping, like a patio. This is a straightforward fix for diverting water away from wet spots. A blend of rocks around it allows the catch basin to blend in with the landscape.
From basic to beautiful, there are many combinations of elements we can put to work that provide an effective long-term solution for drainage issues in your landscape.
Ready to learn how can we help you solve your standing water problems? Call (360) 574-8979 or email us for a consultation. We’ll work with you to protect your landscape with the right drainage solution to meet your needs.
Find more inspiration for dry creek beds and landscape design by visiting us on Houzz!