stone garden yard

Garden Rooms

While the sunshine or snowy view from your window may change hour by hour we are certain that the process of spring is under way.  To kick off spring we’re pleased to share a recent Deseret News guest article on Garden Rooms written by our Landscape Architect – Jake Young.  You can read the article here or at this link on Deseret News.

Perhaps there is not a more enchanting place than a mid-summer botanical garden full of color, natural fragrance and vegetation. You can bring this same beauty to your back yard by applying some of the same design principles used in your home to create a garden room or an exterior gathering place.

The garden room can serve as a place for outdoor entertaining, a space for growing delicious fruits and vegetables or a sanctuary busy with humming birds or bees spreading pollen. If created and maintained properly, the garden room can be the treasure of any residential landscape.

What makes a garden room different than a conventional garden found in most typical residential landscapes? A conventional garden is often located in the back, low in priority and only visited while planting, weeding or harvesting. Conventional gardens are for utilitarian purposes only; while the harvest they grow can be enjoyed, their spaces often are not.If created and maintained properly, a garden room can be a treasure of any landscape.

Garden rooms are designed with a vision of people, plants, and space intermingling in beauty and harmony. Garden rooms have edges, borders, alignment, pathways and specific entrances. They range in size and scale, depending on space and land availability.

Rooms can be large and rambling over an acre of space or compact and cozy, with size more similar to a room at home. Regardless of size, a beautiful and tranquil space designed for both people and plants can be created.

The location of the garden is a key to its success. Common vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and beans need at least eight hours of direct sunlight, and leafy greens require four to six hours. Another variable to consider in the location equation is what the main function of the space will be.

Will it be primarily for entertaining or used as a place to retreat to with a book and a hammock?

The further the garden room is placed from the home, the more likely it will be a tranquil getaway. Conversely, a garden room nearer your house will create a natural flow of movement to outdoor dining and entertaining. Another advantage of placing the garden near your indoor or outdoor kitchen is to make access to harvesting fruits and vegetables very convenient.

A garden room’s entrance welcomes visitors into the magic. An ornamental trellis or gate with a flowering vine is a popular entrance feature. Even the material under your feet can define the entrance, such as a change from grass to a band of brick pavers or stone. There are many great options for a magical and welcoming garden entrance.

For a home garden room, creating a unique and natural experience is critical, and part of that experience is the journey to and from the space.

James van Sweden said, “By creating layers of experience, these tangible and intangible screens deepen the garden’s effect, even if the total space is actually small. Such screens also endow the garden with an exciting sense of mystery; you can’t help wondering what is beyond that wall, trellis, hedge or fence and what you’d find at the end of that path disappearing around the corner.”

The most common medium for separating spaces is hedges, but other options may include masonry walls, fences or trellis structures. The height of your hedge or wall will depend on the level of privacy desired for each space. When choosing your wall type and height, consider the availability of direct sunlight for needy vegetables. You may want to grow leafy vegetables on the north-facing sides and regular sun vegetables on the south facing sides of the garden room.

A garden room uses the elements of comfort and atmosphere to draw people in. Plenty of comfortable seating is a necessity.

One method for creating functional seating is building raised planter beds into benches by placing seat boards on top. Raised planter beds can be made from wood, stone or composite plastic materials such as Trex. A comfortable seating height is 16-21 inches high. Carefully placing benches, chairs and small tables can also add to the comfort of the space.

Creating a unique atmosphere may involve blending vegetables of choice with flowering annuals, vines and unique specimen plants. An ornamental flowering tree or a small fruit tree makes a fantastic focal point. The early bloom of many flowering trees brings a seasonal highlight and fragrance to the garden.

Combining many different plant types creates a sense of wonder and a break from ordinary life.

The centerpiece of the garden room could be a water fountain or a masonry fire ring. Small details such as bird houses, bird baths and feeders can keep the garden busy with activity. Garden rooms are great places to display sculpture. When the garden is laid out properly, the rows of flowering plants will enhance the artistic experience.

While the main purpose of a garden room is to create a place to relax, explore and entertain in your own landscape, it will also add value by enhancing the emotional draw to your property. Who knows, your next dreamy escape could be in your own backyard.