Marni Jameson: Loving your yard, Part 2
My husband, DC, and I loved the vision Tony Evans, owner of Orlando Landscape Designs, created to transform our ho-hum backyard into a place we would actually look forward to coming home to.
However, before budget realities could dash our dreams, we indulged in the fantasy of seeing our backyard through the magic spectacles of a professionally rendered design in which almost anything is possible.
“I could sell my first-born son,” I said to DC.
“You don’t have a son.”
“Oh, right. But you do!”
“Let’s wait to see how the numbers come in.”
DC had the cardiac paddles ready as I opened the email outlining containing the estimate. Meanwhile Evans got on the phone to talk me through the initial shock.
“It’s all phase-able,” Evans said, as I began to digest the numbers. “We can start small, and work a bit at a time.”
Although the price estimates were not too far from our calculated guesses, none included must-have features like the wall fountain, the fire bowls, the patio furniture or the lighting. To get this yard, we were going to have to get creative or win the lotto. But this much we knew: Now that we’ve seen what’s possible, we’re not turning back.
We revisited the factors that Evans considered when designing our yard — or any yard:
• Take inventory. “When approaching a design, first I look at what the property has that we want to keep,” Evans said, when explaining his design approach. As I looked across our yard, I asked, “What’s here to salvage?” I couldn’t imagine. His answer: a couple of trees, a blooming bougainville and the fence.
• Privacy as priority. Next he works on secluding the yard. To screen the neighbor’s view into our yard, Evans’ plan calls for a row of tall bamboo trees and more hedge material along the back fence.
• Downplay negatives. A good landscape design should play up a property’s strengths and play down its weaknesses, he said. Like every yard, ours had both. He notes, for example, that at our place, a long garage wall with no windows needed to be minimized. His plan calls for covering the wall with fig ivy, putting a fountain against it, and flanking the fountain with generous potted urns, turning a minus into an appealing plus.
• Play up positives. “Similarly, I try to take what’s good — like your view — and make it better,” he said. Our yard’s best feature is the green space it opens onto, which is visible when you walk in the front door. To capitalize on that, Evans developed site lines down the property, and placed eye-catching fire bowls, to draw the eye out.
• Create rooms to scale. When designing outdoor rooms, Evans routinely steals proportions from the home’s interior. “If your eating area is 13 x 10, match that outside. Similarly if your living room is 16x20, re-create that proportion outdoors.”
• Design for flow and connection. Our outdoor dining table currently sits on our covered patio by the backdoor, interrupting the flow between the house and yard. Evans’ plan moves the table out into the yard, and replaces it with a sitting area you can walk through. From the house, you step into the outdoor living room, then can move to the outdoor dining room, and afterward, to the hearth room with the fire.