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Backyard Landscaping

The intention of backyard landscaping is to create an outdoor living experience that can rival the stimulation and comforts of interior space.  In order to accomplish this end, we have to do much more than work with the organic aspects of the yard itself.  As important as trees, shrubs, and garden designs are, structural elements are equally important.  Constructing swimming pools, patios, arbors, shade structures, and outdoor rooms in the backyard completes the depth and dimension of the landscaping design.

As with all aspects of landscape architecture, this must be treated as both a science and an art.  We must first make a very careful analysis of the property by surveying its dimensions and physical points of differentiation.  This will enable us to determine the general theme of design and how its many elements will flow together.  No matter what style we choose to create, we must always work with the existing topography and architecture of the property so that we may establish a feeling of harmonious movement throughout the backyard.

This requires developing landscaping plans that include areas of egress (going out) and ingress (coming in) without compromises the open spaces needed for a robust lawn.  Every house is always going to have at least one point of egress into the backyard.  Some larger custom homes have multiple points of both egress and ingress located on the sides of the house as well as the traditional back door.  These areas cannot be treated as mere transit areas alone if we are going to properly develop the space.  Every one of these egress/ingress points must be considered as the beginning of an experience that creates an altered state of mind.  This experience must then transfer at least in part to a feeling of openness and freedom as they move beyond the house into the expanse of the backyard itself.

Open lawn areas, no matter how large or small, will maintain this sensibility so long as outdoor rooms, patios, and gardens are positioned at appropriate vantage points and proportionally balanced as parts to the whole.  Regardless of the property’s actual acreage, the lawn and surrounding elements will appear magnified, if not expansive, if the geometry of landscaping is properly established from the beginning.

Regardless of specific elements or type of design, there are always some practical considerations that we must keep in mind as well.  Drainage is of paramount importance in gardening because every structure blocks water from being sheet drained to street.  Any wall, fence, or garage is going to create a dam effect and will require us to devise some method of rapid water runoff.  This has to be done effectively, but also very subtly, so as to avoid ruining the aesthetic at hand.  Drains can be as simple as concealed pipes, or they can be actual aesthetic elements that serve a hidden purpose, such as the popular French drain. 

Another very practical element that should always be integrated into outdoor landscaping is professional lighting design.  Most of our clients are people who use their backyards as outdoor gathering places for events that begin in the early evening and continue into the night.  Professionally installed landscape lighting keeps everything clearly visible at night, and it also helps magnify the sense of egress into a new dimension, by expanding the vista from the rear home living space and exposing the magnitude of the garden and the interrelatedness of the landscaping design.

This article was published on Friday 01 May, 2009.

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