The winners of our 2008-2009 garden contest offer fine touches while taking advantage of the greatest freebie of all: nature
Is this a postcard?
When our judges first saw this photo, they said, “We want to be there. Now.” While the owners probably wouldn’t want us vacationing in their backyard, we briefly fantasized about it. The fiberglass lounge chairs offer a front-row seat to Phoenix’s Camelback Mountain and seem to float on the pool’s surface because they’re secured on a shallow, submerged deck. What would make this escape complete? A book, flip-flops, a spritzy refresher, and time to enjoy the negative-edge pool in its oasis setting surrounded by agaves, red yucca, creosote bush, saguaros, and palo verde.
Design: Rick Jones and Kristina Floor, JJR Floor, Phoenix (602/462-1425)
Steal it: The open-style fence of rusty steel pipes (anchored below ground in concrete) eliminates the need for horizontal supports and avoids blocked views. With close neighbors, you could plant a blooming vine on it for a living fence.
A wow backdrop
Without missing a beat, this backyard echoes its stunning view of Morro Bay, California. Every element and material takes a cue from the estuary setting, including paths that mimic the shoreline curves, a concrete wall bench whose sheen mirrors the bay’s still waters, and flagstone pavers in the colors of the distant sandspit. A meandering path leads to a bench overlooking the bay. Ah, solitude.
Design: Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture, Baywood Park, CA (805/528-2118)
Steal it: Let the landscape you love inspire your paving. Landscape architect Jeffrey Gordon Smith chose flagstone pavers with dark Mexican pebbles between them to resemble the fingers of water that drain to the bay.
Morro Bay, CA
Boulders anchor the stacked stone walls, echoing nearby Morro Rock; a native dudleya grows in a pocket between stones while Carex flacca fringes the base.
This 2-level backyard in San Francisco turns its outdoor space into a spa-like retreat.
Steps connect an upper bluestone patio to a new deck on the lower level with an eco-smart design: By installing the new deck ― built from sustainably harvested ipe ― on top of the old concrete one, that material didn’t have to be discarded.
Two varieties of bamboo (green canes and black) act as a privacy screen along the back fence, while Pittosporum undulatum and a bronze-leafed Japanese maple shade the corners.
Design: Greg Unti, Bella Vita Garden Design, San Francisco (415/ 648-0100)
San Francisco, CA
Steal it: Paint a branch with vivid color to set a mood. This curvy sculpture was an Atlas cedar, painted by the garden’s owners, Lamisse Droubi and Stephen Holman.
The designer calls it a "happy surprise that adds a punch of color to the soothing green palette."
Courtesy of Allworth Design
It's about the journey
You never know what you might find behind an entry gate. In the case of this contemporary Seattle home, it’s a jasmine- and rosemary-scented journey from the street-level gate to the front door. You descend 12 feet down colored concrete stairs, passing a "rill" filled with black pebbles to suggest the soothing flow of water.
In the courtyard below, a ginkgo tree’s yellow-green foliage contrasts beautifully with darker mondo grass. Bands of greenery were planted to create a linear pattern that echoes the trellis overhead.
Design: Randy Allworth, Allworth Design, Seattle (206/623-7396)
Installation: Dale Nussbaum, Nussbaum Group, Seattle (206/545-0111)
Steal it: Tuck a fringe of green between pavers. Designer Randy Allworth chose baby’s tears for the shaded foreground and ‘Elfin’ thyme for the sunny background.
A touch of Bali
We love this garden’s blend of tropical lushness and modern Asian flair. Wherever you go, you’re within sight and sound of water in this space in Newport Beach, California. The hillside property is small, but outdoor living areas are abundant.
A path skirts the home’s north side, connecting a series of courtyards ― a lounge area, a dining courtyard, and a sun deck ― like a string of pearls. The pool, spa, and deck at the path’s end all face the Pacific Ocean.
Design: Glen Brouwer, Integration Design Studio, Carlsbad, CA (760/602-0144), in collaboration with the owners, Carmela and Miles Phillips
In Newport, CA, geometric steppingstones crossing a small pool give the illusion of walking on water.
A piece of art tucked amid greenery at the end of the path treats visitors to a visual surprise.
The following designers are also winners in our 2008–09 Dream Garden Awards contest. See their work in our garden blog, Fresh
R. Michael Schneider, Orange Street Studio (323/874-3378); makeover category
Mark Bittoni, Bittoni Design Studio (310/841-6857); makeover category
Donna Bone, Design with Nature (505/983-5633); regional category
Cameron Owen, IBI Group (604/683-8797); outdoor-living category
Tyler Manchuk and Ive Haugeland, Shades of Green Landscape Architecture (415/332-1485); small space category
Judges: Margaret Joplin, ASLA, Tucson; Diana Stratton, Healdsburg, CA; Kathleen N. Brenzel, Julie Chai, and Lauren Bonar Swezey, Sunset magazine