FIELD NOTES

Phillips Garden is excited to launch Field Notes, a blog about design and horticulture. Follow our designers, gardeners, and landscapers as we create and cultivate real. beautiful. spaces.

Creating Connection in Suburban Landscapes

Suburban living appeals to many homeowners. The houses and properties are often larger and newer than those in urban settings, and residents are close to nature reserves and large parks. In these housing developments, landscape designers often struggle to work with tall boxy homes that resemble buoys bobbing in seas of turfgrass.  Without landscape elements that properly harmonize with the size of these houses, new suburban neighborhoods can feel harsh and impersonal.

The owner of this particular new suburban abode wanted to minimize the vastness of her house, especially on the back side, where the design is heavy on height and drastic corners.  She also wanted a private outdoor sanctuary where she could sit and enjoy a spectacular view of the marsh behind her house.  To accomplish these goals, the Phillips designers needed tall plantings that could both define spaces and connect the house to its surrounding natural landscape.

Before: Without any landscaping, this suburban home is adrift in endless turfgrass.

Before: Without any landscaping, this suburban home is adrift in endless turfgrass.

Before: Sharp angles and tall corners dominate the backyard.

Before: Sharp angles and tall corners dominate the backyard.

Since the homeowner requested prairie-style plants, the resulting Phillips Garden design is brimming with grasses and other fast-growing wildflowers and trees.  In the front yard, the repetition of tall grasses blurs the house’s sharp angles, decreasing its sense of formality while also emphasizing a more welcoming front entryway.  As the trees grow, they will continue to diminish this home’s overpowering presence on its lot. Meanwhile, the perennial plants provide fresh contrasting textures.

After: New plantings transform the entryway.

After: New plantings transform the entryway.

In the back yard, Phillips planted a grove of quaking aspens (Populus tremuloides) at the base of the house’s sharpest, tallest corner.  Since this tree species matures quickly, the aspens will soon overtake the height of the house.  Echoing the materials of the front yard, Phillips used large fast-growing prairie and woodland plants to define the border between the new stone seating area and the neighbor’s nearby garage. The patio and its sitting wall are wrapped in bright blooming perennials, and the resulting sense of enclosure creates an intimate, cozy outdoor oasis in the middle of the housing development.

After: The house is now strongly anchored to its surroundings with tall trees and perennials.

After: The house is now strongly anchored to its surroundings with tall trees and perennials.

After: Phillips' custom stone sitting wall and lush prairie-style plantings frame a cozy patio.

After: Phillips' custom stone sitting wall and lush prairie-style plantings frame a cozy patio.

From the sitting wall, the lucky homeowner now has a perfectly-framed view of the neighborhood’s picturesque marsh and willow tree, which are somehow even more beautiful within this new framework. The landscape’s lush, dense greenery flows seamlessly into the property’s existing natural scenery. The plants in Phillips’ design essentially mimic the natural setting, providing the repetition necessary to connect this house to its surroundings.  The large house itself is now effortlessly anchored into the landscape, as if it has been well-established in this neighborhood for many years.  

After: A gorgeous view of the seamless transition from the home landscape to its natural surroundings.

After: A gorgeous view of the seamless transition from the home landscape to its natural surroundings.