Sometimes the best plans require innovative adaptations to reach fruition. The restoration of Greg and Kelley Parker's Savannah courtyard proves that a flexible approach to landscape design can yield rich rewards.
While Greg is not a professional, he's done enough landscape work to feel comfortable installing his own hardscape. "Even when I have a plan to go by, I always seem to come up with a novel design," he says. "There is always something that has to be changed. I guess that's why I like doing this: It's a creative process."
Greg started the landscape renovation by soliciting advice from friends. "We came up with a couple of good ideas to build on and then developed a plant list," Greg says. The group decided on using flagstone pavers for the courtyard surface and brick for the edging. "I hadn't ever installed this kind of hardscape, so it was a real learning process," he says.
The first step was to level the courtyard, which encompassed the side yard and backyard, and bring in a sand base. The next was to mortar the brick edging in place and set the flagstones. But once Greg started the installation, he realized there would have to be some changes.
When the flagstone pavers arrived, they were pretty far from what Greg had originally envisioned, with their undertones of purple and pink. "It's a natural material; so every load looks a little different," says Greg. "But the tone was too similar to that of the brick we had for the raised-bed edge." Instead of sending the load back, however, Greg adapted his plan and brought in flats of dwarf mondo grass.
"We took out the sand between the brick border and flagstone walkway and replaced it with a planting mix of peat, ground-up pine bark, and sand," he says. With this in place, they planted the dwarf mondo grass to fill in the gap. "I noticed pretty quickly the areas where we didn't pack in enough of our planting mix. I soon had to go back and replant the mondo grass in those spots," he says. Greg also added a line of mondo grass on the edge of the raised bed to continue the visual rhythm.
The final result gives the Parkers a great-looking side yard that ties into the less-formal backyard. "We put the grass between the flagstones and the bricks specifically to break up the colors," Greg explains. "But what we ended up with is a landscape solution that gives us a year-round accent." It's this sort of willingness to work through problems that often leads to the best designs.
- Focus on function first, and then consider style and appearance.
- Use a garden hose to experiment with bed lines.
- Practical edgings should hold up to everyday wear and tear from lawn mowers, foot traffic, and pets.
- Good edging choices include brick, cut stone, concrete pavers, steel, and aluminum.
"Pretty Along the Edge" is from the February 2007 issue of Southern Living.