Create your own pondside retreat

See how 3 gardens use water to add tranquility to small spaces

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COURTYARD ON A SLANT

Diagonal lines make the most of a space-challenged garden

Small spaces work best when they multitask. Jennifer Johnson and John Rippel's enclosed garden in Santa Fe is a prime example. With three glass doors and several windows looking out on the courtyard, they wanted to have attractive views from indoors. And since it's their primary outdoor-living space, they needed at least one entertainment area ― and preferably a second, more intimate one. That's asking a lot from 693 square feet.

Garden design and installation partners Monika Hellwegen and Azul Cobb sketched out several plans but weren't satisfied until they came up with the notion of placing everything on the diagonal.

They installed a triangular patio for outdoor dining immediately off the kitchen and another smaller triangle to use as a private retreat and campfire gathering spot at the opposite corner of the garden. The first enjoys sun most of the day; the second is usually shaded. Different materials for each ― golden quartzite for the sunny patio and tumbled Pennsylvania blue flagstone for the shaded retreat ― emphasize the difference. An island of plants in a diamond shape, with the outline defined in stone, separates the two areas.

A two-sided fountain tucked up against the back wall adds another triangle to the design while allowing both patios to enjoy the sight and sound of trickling water.

Johnson, an artist, loves the garden's pattern. "Looking out at it is a pleasure," she says. The fountain is another joy for her. "Because the sound of falling water travels in two directions, you can hear it from most rooms indoors." When the weather is warm, however, Johnson and Rippel are usually in the space: "It's like having another room."

3 great ideas from this garden

1. Use water sparingly. A splashy fountain isn't just wasteful, it's noisy, especially in a small, confined space, Cobb says. Allowing only a trickle of water to run from the spout ― and breaking its fall with a chain and a splash stone set above water level ― provides the right amount of sound.

2. Use stone generously. Other materials may be trendier and cheaper, but stone is timeless. "Its organic quality is soothing and comforting in a garden," Hellwegen says.

3. Capitalize on your yard's exposure. The designers were able to use hostas, Japanese maple, 'Palace Purple' heuchera, and other plants that don't normally like Santa Fe's intense light, because the courtyard faces northeast. The cool plant palette contributes to the garden's serene mood.

Design: Azul Cobb and Monika Hellwegen, Carlotta from Paradise, Santa Fe (505/983-1109)
―Sharon Cohoon

More: Fresh Dirt, get the latest tips, tricks, and planting ideas on our garden blog »

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