Tag Archives: SEATTLE GARDEN DESIGN

A Beginner’s Guide to Growing a Bountiful Garden

A Beginner’s Guide to Growing a Bountiful Garden

Photo via Pixabay

By Carrie Spencer for Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb

Want to start a garden? Planting a garden is a wonderful way to spend more time outside, enjoy some good exercise, and have access to healthful food right in your backyard. But if you’ve never grown a garden before, it can be difficult to know where to start. From choosing the right plants to keeping weeds and pests at bay, there are several tips and tricks that experienced gardeners use to ensure a bountiful harvest at the end of every growing season. Keep on reading to learn how you can earn your own green thumb!

 

Start with Raised Beds

As opposed to planting straight in the ground, gardening in raised beds is a lot more manageable for beginners. This is also a great way to optimize your use of garden space. According to Savvy Gardening, raised beds prevent soil compaction and provide good drainage, so your plants will be less susceptible to root suffocation and rot. Not only that, but raised beds may deter pests like slugs and snails, which can eat up your adorable sprouts before they even get a chance. Finally, raised beds offer a more ergonomic gardening option to reduce strain on your back and neck.

Know Your “Sunset” Zone

You might already have an idea of the kinds of vegetables you would like to grow in your garden, but don’t go buy seeds just yet!  It’s important to be aware of our growing season in the Pacific Northwest.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a numbered system to divide the country into frost-hardiness zones based on climate, but Sunset Magazine offers a more finely-calibrated zone chart for our region.  Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue, and the Puget Sound lowlands are in Sunset Zone 5, whereas the Cascade foothills are in Zone 4.  Determine your zone and be sure to read your seed packet labels to check when it’s best to plant to ensure a good crop. Working with plants that will thrive in your climate zone will be much easier than fighting against an early frost or high summer temperatures.

Learn About Companion Planting

The easiest way to grow a garden is to let your garden take care of itself. Select plants that like to grow next to each other—they will provide a natural source of nutrients, shade, and pest-control. As The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains, three common plants to grow together are corn, pole beans, and squash. The squash provides ground cover to reduce moisture loss and weed growth, the corn provides climbing support for the beans, and the beans help make nitrogen available in the soil for the other plants. Some other great companion plant combinations include radishes and carrots, tomatoes and basil, and lettuce and garlic.

Fertilize Your Garden

Just like us, plants need food. Fertilizing your garden properly will play an important role in its success, so spend some time learning the ins and outs of fertilization. In short, you want to provide your plants with three primary elements—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Providing these nutrients will help your garden flourish! However, you also have to be careful to avoid overfertilizing your plants, which can damage or even kill them. To find out exactly how much fertilizer to feed your garden, bring a sample of your soil to a testing lab and have it analyzed before amending it with any added nutrients.

Enjoy Your Harvest!

One of the largest benefits of growing your garden is having all of that veggie goodness right at your fingertips. To make the most of your backyard bounty, find recipes that showcase the flavors of your homegrown vegetables. For your tomatoes, consider an heirloom tomato seafood platter or make your own sauce. Whip up a homemade pesto with all of that beautiful basil or use it to add flavor to your weeknight dishes. The opportunities for healthful and delicious meals are truly endless!

Gardening might seem like a lot of work, but it’s a worthwhile hobby that just keeps on giving. Once you get started, you’ll quickly find that digging around in the dirt, pulling weeds, and watering your sprouts is an incredibly therapeutic activity. You’ll always be looking for new ways to expand your backyard plot, so get outside in the fresh air and get your garden started today!

Ask for Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to get started, consider working with a professional landscape architect to help you out. Brooks Kolb LLC can guide you through the process of designing the perfect garden. All key elements will be addressed, from construction materials to the plants you want to grow.

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb can help you create the perfect garden that seamlessly blends form and function. Contact us at (206) 324-0858 for a free initial consultation!

 Garden writer Carrie Spencer can be reached at carrie@thespencersadventures.net.

 

Five Popular Outdoor Renovations That’ll Add Value to Your Seattle Area Home

By Evette Zalvino, Freelance Writer for HomeLight, for Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb

Top Agent Insights for Spring 2021: Seller’s Market Sizzles Across U.S. (homelight.com)

Renovating your backyard is a great way to prepare for a summer of entertainment, and these five renovations will add a lot of value to your Seattle home.

2020 was one heck of a year, wasn’t it? Now that 76% of Seattleites are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, it’s time to make plans to invite guests over for barbecues, parties, and a good ole’ game of volleyball (or whatever your family and friends like to play). It’s also the perfect time to give your backyard a complete overhaul and turn it into a fun and beautiful oasis that everyone will want to use and enjoy.

The question is, where do you even start; or if you’re looking to sell your home, which projects will add the most value to your home?  After gathering some insights from real estate agents and landscape architects in Seattle, these landscaping renovations are what many homeowners want the most:

1. Outdoor living space

Homeowners are treating their backyards as an extension of their homes, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that nearly every homeowner wants an outdoor living space. This renovation isn’t just popular in Seattle, 52.5% of surveyed real estate agents from all over the country report clients say this is on their “wants” list.

These outdoor spaces can be as elaborate as you’d like, but many people opt for a simple seating terrace, with a separate dining area. It’s important to note that these spaces are not just relegated to the backyard – you can create a beautiful (but private) front garden where you can relax and enjoy a cup of coffee.

2. Lawns for playing

If you have young children (or you’re a child at heart), having a luscious lawn that’s large enough for playing outside is important for at least 50% of residential landscape clients, and can go as high as 100% for people with young children). The best types of grass for the Seattle area include Fescue and Ryegrass. These varieties are extremely resilient and, the right soils, sun exposure, watering, and regular mowing program, can withstand rigorous game-playing.

Having a large grassy area for games doesn’t mean that the rest of the landscaping must be boring or drab. You can use hardscaping to create a path that separates the lawn from garden beds filled with your favorite perennials, annuals, and shrubs.

3. Outdoor grilling setup

You may have a charcoal grill that’s seen better days, so why not plan a renovation suited for the grill master that you are? An outdoor grilling station will give you a place where you can whip up delicious barbecue while entertaining your guests – after all, who wants to be left out of all the juicy gossip or life updates?

There are a variety of options when it comes to creating the ideal grilling station that suits your needs. Many if not most people prefer to keep it simple, locating their grills on the edge of a patio, against a wall.  However, you could consider erecting a pergola over your grill for rain protection, or you could install a built-in brick, wood or stone grilling station with a countertop for food preparation. There are a lot of possibilities to tailor the set-up for your particular needs.

4. Outdoor fire feature

While everyone calls them fire pits, “fire feature” is a more accurate term to describe all the various design options available to people who want to enjoy the heat and light that an outdoor fire can provide. Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb reports that at least 35% of his clients request a custom fire feature, while nationally 76.8% of real estate agents represent clients who either have or want fire pits. A fire feature is a great place to relax on the cooler nights while enjoying your garden or chatting with friends and family.

One affordable solution is to purchase a catalog-order fire table, which can double as an outdoor coffee table for your conversational setting, but if budget permits, custom-built fire features can incorporate masonry that matches or compliments your home’s architectural design.

5. Raised garden beds

There’s nothing like fresh herbs and vegetables to take your cooking up to a whole new level. However, bending over to tend to the plants or harvest them can be difficult for some homeowners. To remedy this or to provide an easy way to cut flowers for indoor bouquets, many people ask for raised garden beds to be a primary feature of their new landscape design.  Moreover, if your garden has heavy clay soils, raised beds are almost a necessity, as they facilitate bringing in a loamy topsoil.

Whether you want to spend more time in your garden, you’re looking forward to entertain guests outdoors, or you just want to boost your property value, these landscaping renovations are a great way to start. With a little bit of imagination and planning, your landscaping is sure to be the talk of the town!

If you’d like more specific suggestions or recommendations on all these garden design features, please contact Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb, at 206-342-0858.

Creating Curb Appeal for House Sale

by Clara Beaufort, for Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb.  Clara is a garden writer and community gardener based in Georgia. She created GardenerGigs to connect local gardeners with those in need of plant care help.   You can reach her at clara@gardenergigs.com.

Any good real estate agent will tell you that creating curb appeal is an essential step when you plan on putting your home on the market. Your home’s interior could be completely remodeled with all the best upgrades, but if the exterior is lackluster, many buyers won’t even walk through the door. The good news is that investing in curb appeal does more than just help sell your house faster. It also improves your home’s value, so you can be confident that it’s money well spent.

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Brooks Kolb’s Design for a Laurelhurst Front Living Room

Lawn and Garden 101

When you’re ready to invest in improved curb appeal, the hardest part for most homeowners is figuring out what to do first. Think of this step as Lawn and Garden 101 – you’re getting a feel for what it takes to get your yard in tip top shape. The first tasks to do will vary by season, so we suggest starting with a seasonal checklist. For example, Martha Stewart’s spring gardening tips include surveying your yard first, then deciding how to fill any gaps, reseeding grass, pruning, and preparing flower beds.

Starting with these tips will help you come up with a lawn and garden plan, plus it will help ensure you’re choosing the right plants for the season. Timing and choosing plants carefully is always important with landscaping, but especially when you want to sell your house. This is because plants that are in bloom and have lots of color will make the biggest impact on buyers. To get this maximum effect, The Spruce recommends that spring sellers plant early bloomers, hardy annuals, and flowering shrubs.

Creating and maintaining a beautiful lawn and garden is a lot of work, but you don’t have to do it all on your own. Whether you don’t have a green thumb or you simply don’t have the time it takes, hiring a gardening service is an easy way to get (and keep) the results you’re looking for. These pros specialize in all aspects of landscaping, whether you need help with the planning stage, planting, weeding, or other maintenance needs. And, remember, spring is the ideal time to make your exterior shine.

Tackle Other Exterior Projects

Curb appeal is about more than just your lawn and garden, which is why the next item on your to-do list should be addressing other exterior issues. This includes fixing anything that’s broken or worn looking, plus making cosmetic improvements strategically. Look at things like making repairs, such as fixing a broken deck board, along with cleaning spots you wouldn’t normally think about, such as your home’s roof and siding.

Inexpensive Extras

In addition to doing the necessary work of repairs and cleaning, buyers will be even more impressed if you go the extra mile with curb appeal. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune or a ton of time. Our suggestion is to pick just a few “extra” projects that will make the biggest impact, such as creating a more welcoming front entryway.

If your front door is looking shabby, give it a fresh coat of paint, and don’t forget about house trim and shutters. Along with a spruced up front door, make your front porch even more inviting with a container garden, adding a seasonal wreath, and a new welcome mat.

It’s also smart to think about making the most of your home’s outdoor spaces for the season you’re in. If you’re selling in spring, a birdhouse is a great seasonal accent for your garden, and the beautiful birds you attract are an added bonus. Or if you’re selling in summer, consider staging outdoor spaces to highlight the potential for backyard barbeques.

When you’re getting your home ready to sell, you want to highlight its best features while making house hunters feel welcome. Don’t underestimate the value of curb appeal, which affects your home’s appraisal value, to give that warm impression! From a neat and tidy lawn to seasonal accents, every improvement you make outside will help get buyers through the door – AND a better price at closing.

 

Recent Work: A Cascadia Avenue Garden

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb is proud to announce the completion of an extensive new garden on Cascadia Avenue in the Mount Baker garden. The front garden features six rectangular perennial beds flanking the central front walk, while the much larger back garden boasts a substantial number of amenities: a swimming pool, shed with kitchenette, sports court and children’s play area. A raised hot tub is situated to look out over the flames of a custom, natural gas-fed fire feature to views of Lake Washington beyond. In addition, a custom tree house nestles in an Evergreen Magnolia tree for the owner’s young children. More than thirteen varieties of fruiting trees, shrubs, vines and espaliers are distributed throughout the garden, all without blocking views of the lake. Brooks collaborated with architect Kim Lavacot for the shed and tree house.

Photographs by Miranda Estes Photography

Recent Work: A Mount Baker Garden

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb is proud to announce the completion of a substantial new hillside garden in the Mount Baker Garden. Since the main floor of the house is at a much lower elevation than the street, an elegant concrete stair winds down past a dramatic waterfall to the front door. From the main stair landing, a wide gravel path loops around to the back garden, which features a tranquil koi pond and a mahogany observation deck with sweeping views of Lake Washington and the Cascades. On the north side of the house, a second stair descends to a lower level rental unit which has its own lawn. Lush plantings of trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials are distributed throughout the garden, while a variety of erosion control shrubs anchor the steep slope below the deck. Brooks collaborated with Turnstone Construction on the two contrasting water features.

Photographs by Miranda Estes Photography

 

 

Brooks Kolb’s dad Keith Kolb honored by UW

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb’s father, Keith Kolb, FAIA, was honored last Saturday night in the Alumni Awards Program of the University of Washington’s College of the Built Environment (UW CBE.)  My 95-year old dad was honored as a distinguished Professor Emeritus for his outstanding record of teaching architecture until his retirement at age 70.  The program included 3 awards given to recent graduates, plus 2 “Distinguished Alumni Awards.”  These last went to Lee Copeland, FAIA, who was Dean at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Fine Arts (now re-named Graduate School of Design) when I was in the master’s program there, and Steven Holl, the New York-based architect who designed the beautiful Chapel of St. Ignatius on the Seattle University Campus as well as the Bellevue Arts Museum.

Here are 2 photos of dad, dated April 1, 2017, with (from left to right) Marga Rose Hancock, the long-time Executive Director of the Seattle American Institute of Architects (AIA); Betty Wagner, the long-time UW Architectural Librarian; and Jane Hastings, an architect colleague of dad’s who broke the (lower) glass ceiling in the 1950’s by receiving her degree in architecture and going on to a successful architectural practice in Seattle.

 

Hellebores – Harbingers of Spring in the Pacific Northwest

by Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb

It’s been an especially wet and cold winter in the Pacific Northwest, but we’re finally beginning to see the first signs of spring.  Winter-blooming Witch Hazels and Camellias have already finished flowering, and now is the time for Hellebores to take center stage.  No Hellebore species is more popular than Helleborus orientalis.  Known as “Lenten Rose” for the time of its bloom period, this Hellebore has already been blooming for several weeks and it should continue through at least the end of March.  Depending on the exact variety, its pale flowers on narrow, foot-high stems in shades of pink, purple, magenta, cream and chartreuse look like they were painted in watercolor washes.   It’s nice to plant massings of all-white varieties, but deep pink ones like ‘Pink Frost’ are also attractive.  It’s easy to find them in batches of mixed hybrids if you want random samplings of the entire color range in a single planting bed.

Helleborus orientalis ‘Pink Frost’

Among the other species, Helleborus niger (“Christmas Rose”) looks very similar to Lenten Rose except that its leaves have no obvious stems, while H foetidus (“Bears’s Foot hellebore) has strikingly narrow leaves.  But, apart from Lenten Rose, the other species I like to use in my designs is the Corsican Hellebore (H. argutifolius.)  This one is much taller and wider, to about 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide, with tough, leathery mint-green leaves and large, showy chartreuse flowers that bloom in February and hold their blooms until you finally decide to cut them off in early summer.  The Corsican Hellebore is a great ornamental evergreen  shrub for partly shaded spots in the garden and is a good selection for the back or middle of a garden bed, with the lower Lenten Roses occupying spots below it in the foreground.

Helleborus argutifolius

Source

Great Plant Picks for Winter

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Snowberry – Symphoricarpos albus

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Arnold Promise Witch Hazel – Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’

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Star Magnolia – Magnolia stellata

I always tell my clients that a Seattle garden should be designed with winter in mind.  If a garden looks good in winter, it’s almost guaranteed that it will look really great in spring and summer.  Above are three great plant picks that are are certain to lift your spirits in winter:  Snowberry, with its white berries on bare winter twigs; Arnold Promise Witch Hazel, with confetti-like yellow flowers in January, and Star Magnolia.  The photo shows Star magnolia blooming in the spring, but in the winter, its fuzzy, pussy-willow-like buds are a lovely promise of spring to come.  The larger Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia soulangiana) has equally gorgeous winter buds.

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The base Isokern “Magnum” outdoor fireplace, before stone facing is added

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Evergreen Scree…

Evergreen Screen Planting for Tight Spaces

Every garden, no matter how large, has a tight space where the property line runs close and the neighbor’s house or another unsightly object looms.  Typically, urban side yards are only 5 feet wide, so your bathroom window ends up looking directly into your neighbor’s window, only 10 feet away.  What can you do to screen out those undesirable views?  Unfortunately, the plant choices are extremely limited because mother nature tends to produce plants that put on spread as they put on height:  the taller the plant, the wider it usually is.  Moreover, the adjoining roof lines produce shady conditions from dawn to dusk, further reducing plant choices.

If you have a 5 foot side yard and you’d like a path circumnavigating your house, which I always view as a good idea, effectively you only have 2 to 3 feet of space for evergreen screen planting.  Here are 4 choices worthy of consideration that I often use in my designs:

Italian Cypress:  Although this tree thrives in full sun, it can tolerate a surprising amount of shade.

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Emerald Green Arborvitae:  This tree is more commonly used than any other plant for screening, and I always joke that it was patented by Lowes Hardware, not designed by God.  The only problem is that it does need a fair amount of sun.  If it is planted in conditions that are too shady, it goes brown except at the top, where it might receive enough light.

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Skyrocket Juniper:  This tree has an unmistakably blue color, which makes it tempting to use.  However, it prefers full sun and tends to get wider at the base than Italian Cypress or Arborvitae.

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Golden Bamboo:  Golden Bamboo has two great virtues and one major vice.  On the plus side, it thrives in shade and grows taller, faster than nearly all other screen planting choices.  On the other hand, it is a spreading bamboo and can spread onto your neighbor’s property even if it is properly contained in a root control barrier.

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When I choose the best screen plant for my clients, these are the top candidates I most often consider.  Depending on space available, sun-shade conditions and the client’s feelings about maintaining Bamboo, the choice usually becomes obvious, even if it’s not perfect.


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