Allan Mandell

Frame a fabulous view with expansive turf and sky

Jim McCausland,  – January 23, 2007

An infinity pool, with its disappearing edge, leads the eye straight to the horizon. Apply the same concept to a lawn, and it frames the vista beyond while directing the eye away from nearer views that may not be as appealing.

That’s exactly why Doug Naef created such a lawn at his Portland-area garden overlooking the Willamette River.The house sits on a bank just above the floodplain, which supports a collection of boulders, logs, and willows that changes with the level of the river. His raised lawn edits out the cluttered view in the foreground and emphasizes the river and the wooded hills beyond.

To further direct attention toward the view, Naef framed the far side of the lawn with an extraordinary stone wall that hides both the driveway and street. The 7-foot-tall structure, made of local quarry rock ― as well as river rock retrieved from Naef’s waterfront ― is built around a concrete core. Its dry-stack look mimics the retaining wall around the lawn and accentuates the garden’s casual country style. 

Five great ideas from this garden

1. Create an infinity-edge lawn. Naef supported the downhill side of his lawn with a 30-inch-tall stone retaining wall, but a poured concrete wall would serve as well. Make the top of the wall flat, barely lower than the lawn, and several inches thick to support the wheels on one side of your mower.

2. Start with healthy soil. To get the best possible lawn, Naef replaced the top foot of dirt with high-quality topsoil. After leveling and compacting it, he planted a blend of fescue and perennial rye, which is well adapted to the Northwest. To keep it perfectly manicured and healthy, he regularly cuts it to 1½ inches tall.

3. Form planting pockets. To define a stairway or path that descends a slope, bracket it with plants. Naef marked his steps with boulders, grasses, hydrangeas, and a maple.

4. Situate most plants on the sides of the lawn. Perennials, ornamental grasses, and shrubs screen out the street and soften the landscape without blocking the view.

5. Start your lawn from seed. “It’s very fast,” Naef says, “and fun to watch as the lawn fills in.” Seed has another advantage: It doesn’t raise the level of the grade as sod does. If the lawn develops thin spots as the grass comes up, you can reseed the areas in minutes.

Keep Reading: