Forest fantasy

Garden decoration: Bellevue, Washington

Picture this: You're hiking through a forest when you come upon an isolated natural hot spring surrounded by boulders and lush greenery. You step in, letting the hot water envelop you and soothe your aching muscles. Just a dream, you say? Not to Mike and Brandy Galos, who built their fantasy hot spring right in their own garden with the help of landscape designer and contractor Hendrikus Schraven. Jurors were bowled over by the substantial rock work and the spa's very natural appearance. "Most spas are sterile-looking," noted a juror. "This one feels very secluded and natural."

Secluded it may look, but secluded it isn't: this 12- to 16-foot-wide spa is tucked into the Galoses' front yard below a grove of Douglas fir trees. To screen the spa from the street, existing woodland vegetation was enhanced with cedars, enkianthus, hemlocks, and tall rhododendrons. An angled granite path leads to the spa; large, flat rocks stair-step down into it. This is the ultimate spa, jurors agreed.

Designer: Hendrikus Schraven Landscape Construction & Design, Issaquah, WA (425/392-9977)