One of my favorite design jobs landed in my lap about 10 years ago. I really didn’t know what to expect when I first visited the property – a modest home set on a busy road with a huge level back yard. There was a steep slope out the back door with some ancient concrete steps. Seeing this slope for the first time with a crumbling deck and scrubby perennials dotting the hillside, I was struck with the possibilities right away. Turning a liability of a steep slope into an asset of a beautiful waterfall was right up my alley! This was a perfect solution to a problem area.
For the slope immediately below the deck, I designed two terraced walls of Western Maryland fieldstone, a native stone that blends in nicely with its colors of greys and tans. Using two lower height walls are preferable to one high wall, and each one ended up being about 2 1/2 feet high and curved around following the natural contour of the hill. After removing the deck, a new stone patio with a curving front face to match the walls was built, covered with the same stone. Carefully excavating around the existing large maple tree and keeping any extra soil away from the trunk was critical to maintain the health of the existing tree during construction.
Changing the location of the steps from an awkward area on the left side of the original deck to an uninterrupted pathway that starts in the front yard cleaned up the traffic flow.
Traffic flow, or the way you move around a property, is critical for pathway layout and convenience. Perennial plantings on either side of the steps gave added interest. This area was deer browsed, so plant selection was critical. Go to Deer Combat to see a variety of plants that will work.
Installed with a black butyl liner, the pond and waterfall were built of fieldstone to match the walls. River jack, a rounded rock that is good for aquatic life, covered the bottom and hid the liner. Installation of an electrical outlet close by for the filter and pump, and convenient to the lower patio completed the pond set up.
The original lower covered patio area was cracked cement and low concrete block walls. We covered everything in bluestone and Western Maryland stone to match the other walls below the upper patio. The walls became wide sitting walls, perfect for lounging on!
To complete the transformation, the white wood work and supports were painted a fresh coat and the exterior of the house was given a parge coat in a color to match the stone. The finishing touch was installing a ceiling fan for a cooling breeze on a hot day.
Now my client can sit comfortably on the upper or lower patio, or the conveniently placed bench and overlook the flowering plants, fish, and other wildlife that the flowers entice to the garden.
Butterfly Bushes, Iris, Nepeta, Salvias, Creeping Junipers, Creeping Thyme, Geranium, Caryopteris, Ferns, Variegated Boxwood, Dianthus, Chrysogonum, and Hellebores were all used to give multi-season interest as well as being unappetizing to the deer population.
I think when the Iris bloom is my favorite time to visit and take pictures.