THE CANVAS: A small space, old-European-style home, ponderosa pine forest
THE PALETTE: Moss-covered boulders harvested on site, steel blue water, a tapestry of plants — manicured, wild, colorful, green
THE MASTERPIECE: A chateau in the wilderness, a quaint cottage on a pond
Originally, this project was supposed to be a modest stream to greet visitors. But as construction progressed, the front-yard waterscape continued to grow.
And from flux, serenity was born.
The small stream evolved into a sprawling masterpiece that incorporates previously existing stones and plants, and perfectly complements the modified Tudor-styled home. Water begins by spilling over an existing 35-foot rock outcropping, rolls through a 10-foot stream, then reaches its final destination — a pond-style pool that hugs the home.
The clients wanted a modest body of water to help transition the house to the pine forest and native rock nearby. But there wasn’t much space. “The area between the front porch and the base of a volcanic hillside was only 25 feet deep and 55 feet wide,” says Kathryn Swehla, senior designer at Land Expressions, LLC, a landscape architecture and construction firm.
To complicate things more, the homeowners requested some tropical flavor. “That was the design challenge: to pull these themes together,” Swehla says.
They began with the 35-foot volcanic rock outcropping. To get the right flow, Clayton Varick and foreman Dan Bledsoe experimented by pouring water at different speeds out of a 5-gallon bucket. A gentler sheeting action made the most sense. “Splash was a big issue,” says Varick, a landscape architect and construction manager for this project. “And it’s more natural in that situation to see water that would ad-here to the surface of the rock and ripple down with only a slight separation.”
For the stream, Bledsoe used stones from the site. He chose pieces with moss on them to give the stream an aged look, then crafted the channel to vary in width between a few inches wide to a couple of feet.
The stream terminates in the pool. The house side of the vessel is veneered with the same quartzite flagstone used on the porch. On the woods side, the designers placed natural rocks going into the water.
To the other side
A concrete bridge provides access from the driveway to the front door. It contains gold, red and brown beach glass. “It’s a subtle way of dressing up the concrete without being overpowering or contemporary,” Swehla says.
The plants serve as an integral part of the design. Three zones carry the look from formal to natural. Near the house, you’ll find more manicured varieties — such as globe arborvitaes — placed symmetrically and at consistent distances apart. “As we moved away from the house, we went with more open types of plants,” Swehla says.
On the other side of the pool, the designers used a variety of looser, non-native materials. “Finally, it transitioned into plants that either were native or looked native as they went into the forest,” Swehla says. Existing ivy was kept to cover the rocks. The red leaves of the Japanese maple and the brightly colored flowers lend the slight tropical touch the clients wanted.
The blending of different designs resulted in a unique fusion of colors and styles.
“I think of it as a home that would belong to an English official in colonial India,” Swehla says.