Sometimes I am dealt plenty, when I am asked to design for a client. Although the immediate concept of flat ground seems simple, the solutions can be time consuming and messy. This property was extreme in its high grade- a fence included- on the lot lines. This home-in a ditch.
Can you see-how this client’s land is high at its edges, draining to the house? There was always soil and bark on the drive after a rain. And water standing next to the foundation, and in the garage. Sometimes it seems to me that a house is set too low in the ground; this house was a good candidate for a landscape that would improve many conditions-as water is not good for a house. Slopes are great for sledding or skiing, but not so great for living in. Flat gound makes for sociable spaces. I myself have no interest in juggling a glass of wine, and an appetizer on a hill. I like level. Or As close to level as I can get, and still have drainage. Steeply sloping sites are tough to negotiate, and tough to plant. If you have a space you wish only to view-plant that hill. If you plan to live in that space, terrace it.
This clients fence was set a good 40 inches above the grade of their house. Water rushed down and covered a terrace that was too small for company anyway. I proposed that they tear the entire space to pieces, and put it back together in such a way that would make their outdoor living and entertaining a breeze.
We got to work building retaining walls some seven feet off the lot line, and flattening the land near the house. Of course we had to install drainage to handle the water that deluged their property from the adjacent houses. A transformation of this scale is big messy work-they were fine with it.
So many machines, so much stone for the retaining walls, so much mess.
Heavy rains interrupted our work. No drains were in place yet. Looking at all this water, I did explain to my client how they could see all the water on their property, as a layer of grass no longer covered it up. We did a series of drains that took water to the street, and away from the back yard. Its about as much fun to spend money installing drainage as replacing a furnace-only more expensive. But in this case, the threat of water damage to the house was considerable, and this expense necessary-even if they never went outdoors.
This upper level terrace-we planted with columnar carpinus, and Limelight hydrangeas. This simple planting gave them privacy in a lively way. A terrace double the size of the original made sure that any amount of entertaining they had a mind to do would be handled adequately by the landscape. This project was a big fluid mess for better than 3 weeks. The outcome-level.