Imagine the perfect alpine retreat: a small meadow surrounded by stone outcrops, a tranquil pond visited by wildlife, and a lush backdrop of shrubs and trees. Normally you would have to drive miles to find such an idyllic scene, but this one is located in the heart of Seattle.
Before its transformation, the modest backyard was nothing but a flat lawn ― a perfect blank slate for designers Hendrikus Schraven and Jules Durant. Now the multitiered retreat offers plenty of amenities and is absolutely grass-free.
Using soil excavated from the sunken meadow and pond, the designers built up a broad terrace next to the house and paved it with slabs of Montana slate interplanted with creeping red thyme, a variety of Thymus pulegioides with oregano-scented leaves and purple flowers. Two steps down, the meadow is sown with New Zealand brass buttons (Leptinella squalida) ― a no-mow groundcover with soft, ferny leaves that are resilient enough to handle light foot traffic and don't stain like grass. Individual pavers made from blocky Eagle Mountain stone lead across the sunken garden to a pond backed by large boulders. The small pond's 5-foot depth allows for a large volume of water, which keeps it relatively cool, reducing algae growth and chemical use.
Design: Jules Durant and Hendrikus Schraven, the Hendrikus Group, Issaquah, WA (425/392-1200)