With drainage issues and dense shade this little backyard had several big challenges to overcome. The grass, that at one point flourished in the backyard was all but gone due to increased shade and standing water. As trees mature, they provide more and more shade which is a blessing, unless you are a turf grass that requires 6 or more hours of sunshine a day. I could also tell that problems with drainage were causing standing water. Standing water causes the soil to compact which adds to the environmental stress of the existing plants and grass. The result was a back yard barren waist land.
I often have people apologize for the state of their landscape on the initial walk though and I always reassure them that you don’t call a landscape architect unless you have serious problems to solve and I have seen it all. This little space had lots of potential. We just had to plan a way to work with the site conditions rather than fight against them.
At times drainage problems are dealt with in underground pipes but rather than hide the mechanics I decided to make it the central part of the design. I created a circular creek bed that catches water as it makes its way across the yard and directs it around the central part of the yard to the existing low point in back corner of the property.
DESIGNER’s NOTE: Always be aware of the natural water flow coming to and flowing away from the property as you make changes. Water flowing from a neighboring lot should not be blocked and water flowing off your property should not be directed to a different point where it could cause problems for a neighbor downhill.
The yard is fairly flat so creating the low point in the creek bed allows the water to meander through without damaging the planted areas. It also leaves a high spot in the center of the yard for the existing flowering tree.
Without adequate light to grow turf grass the best option for this space was to transition from lawn area to planting bed. African Iris, Spider Lilies and other plants that do not mind getting their feet wet were picked for the plant pallet. For seasonal interest I added an Anacacho Orchid Tree and Purple Oxalis.
THE FINISHED GARDEN
The final landscape provides the homeowner, an avid gardener, with an island oasis to enjoy her garden. A stone bridge connects the new planting bed with the remaining lawn area and the drainage is now an asset rather than a problem.