Blend a tranquil look with formal elements in outdoor living areas

Clean design, well-defined spaces, and meticulous attention to detail make even a small corner lot seem spacious and private. These refined qualities were just what homeowners Rand Babcock and Tony Nahra were seeking when they contacted garden designer Daniel Lowery.

“We were after something lush, nearly tropical ― a blend of Asian Zen sensibility and European formality,” explains Babcock. Lowery put it all together for them.

First, he surrounded the garden with an English laurel privacy hedge (use a dwarf hemlock in cold climates). Then Lowery installed a round sitting and visiting area at one end of the property and an alfresco dining area at the other. Each is paved with tumbled concrete steppingstones; grids of matching stones connect the patios. A planting bed filled with cannas, lilies, Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’, and potted water gardens lies between the two patios.

To satisfy Nahra’s desire for garden-fresh produce, small fruits and herbs are interplanted with ornamentals.

Four great ideas from this garden

1. Hand-prune broad-leafed evergreen hedges. Electric hedge trimmers tend to shred big leaves, so Lowery’s crew prunes the English laurel hedge twice a year with hand clippers ― cutting only stems, not leaves. When the job is done, the hedge looks remarkably refined, with no ragged pruning marks.

2. Blend edibles with ornamentals. Nahra grows common herbs in containers just outside the kitchen door. Other edibles ― black currants, ‘Sunshine Blue’ dwarf blueberries, lingonberries, and purple sage, for example ― are interplanted with shrubs and perennials.

3. Float water plants in pots. Fast-multiplying azolla and duckweed keep mosquitoes and sunlight out of big pots used to grow taller water plants.

4. Spend resources on improving the soil to save on weeding later. The plants here grow in a blend of native soil and compost containing recycled garden prunings and vegetable trimmings.


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