The parterre, an ornamental garden with paths between elaborately designed beds, originated in France. With its clipped formality, the classic European version is a bit stiff for laid-back Northwestern tastes. But Rich Burkholder, who fell in love with continental gardens while living in Switzerland, found a way to Americanize the parterre. In his garden in Sammamish, Washington, formal evergreen hedges frame casual clumps of ornamental grass and flowers. The low inner hedges are sculpted from boxwood, while the perimeter hedge is arborvitae. Inside the boxwood borders, clumps of Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) share space with cosmos, dahlias, bearded and Siberian irises, pink Sedum 'Autumn Joy', and zinnias.
Three-foot-wide gravel paths divide the garden, while a formal white fountain provides a central focal point. When Rich and his wife, Anita, entertain, they float dahlias in the fountain's basin.
Rhododendrons and roses grow just beyond the outer hedge that encloses the whole garden, and conical 'Emerald Green' arborvitaes bracket each opening in the hedge.
Clipped boxwood hedges frame billowing clumps of Japanese silver grass and rosy pink Sedum 'Autumn Joy'.