Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb’s Inverness Garden published in “New Landscaping Ideas That Work”

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb is thrilled to report that his Inverness Garden was just published as a case study in the new book, “New Landscaping Ideas That Work,” by Julia Moir Messervy (Taunton Press.)  Titled “A Backyard Retreat,” Brooks’ garden design is honored with a two-page spread on pages 154-155 in the book, which show-cases nation-wide garden designs.  It is also featured in a full-page photograph chapter heading, “Spaces that Work,” on page 20.  Julia Moir Messervy is also the author of “Home Outside:  Creating the Landscape You Love” and “Outside the Not So Big House” (with Sarah Susanka.)

Quoting Messervy, “Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb created an elegant landscape to meld beautifully with a mid-century modern home built in 1962.  The new owners wanted a private dining terrace on the east side of the house.*  Bands of white Texada concrete pavers alternate with fields of charcoal Texada to give interest to the flat plane around three sides of the house.”

*it is actually on the south side of the house.

For more information, please visit the Inverness Garden project page, https://www.brookskolbllc.net/projects/inverness-garden/.

Photographs by Ken Gutmaker









Brooks Kolb’s Inverness Garden to be Published in “New Landscaping Ideas That Work”

Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb, ASLA, is thrilled to announce that his Inverness Garden for the “Century 21 Idea House” is set to be published in the forthcoming book, “New Landscaping Ideas That Work.” Written by Julia Moir Messervy, the celebrated author of the “Not So Big House” book series, the January, 2018 publication will include a case study of the garden and a photo spread by Ken Gutmaker.  This garden provides an outdoor living room designed to complement the architecture of the house, which was originally designed in 1962 by architect Jack Morse, who was a friend and colleague of Kolb’s father, Keith Kolb, FAIA.

This garden was published in the Fall Home Design issue of the Seattle Times “Pacific NW Magazine,” in October, 2012, with photographs by Ben Benschneider, and can be found on Kolb’s website, here:  https://www.brookskolbllc.net/projects/inverness-garden/








Photograph by Ben Benschneider

Brooks Kolb LLC Honored by BUILD Magazine

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb, ASLA, is  honored and delighted to announce that his firm, Brooks Kolb LLC Landscape Architecture, was granted a prestigious award from BUILD Magazine, an international publication of construction and design based in the United Kingdom.  Announced in September, 2017, BUILD named Brooks Kolb LLC “Best Traditional Landscape Architecture Firm – Washington State and Best Washington Residential Garden Design:  Interlaken Park Garden.”  See the link below, page 75 for the essay Kolb prepared, describing his firm for the magazine:


Mike Siegel 9-7-14.7

Photograph by Mike Siegel

Published in the September 7, 2014 issue of the Seattle Times’ “Pacific NW Magazine,” more photographs and a description of the Interlaken Park Garden can be found here on Kolb’s website:   https://www.brookskolbllc.net/projects/interlaken-park-garden/



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.


What’s Blooming in January?

by Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb

When we think of a garden bursting into bloom, we automatically think of spring, and in the Pacific Northwest that means March and April. However, that doesn’t mean that no plants are blooming in January and February, when the garden still appears to be mostly dead. In addition to the lovely purple and yellow Crocus bulbs that everybody is familiar with, not to mention the Primroses and Cyclomens found in every supermarket’s flower shop, here are some fantastic selections for winter blooms, and three of them are fragrant to boot!

Sasanqua Camellias are a species of winter-blooming Camellias, with many named varieties. They come in white (‘Setsugekka’ and ‘White Doves’), light pink (‘Apple Blossom’); dark pink (‘Tanya’) and red (‘Yuletide.’) If you’re lucky, the latter selection will bloom at Christmas-time.

Witch Hazels (Hammamelis) are a large species of small trees or tree-form shrubs with fragrant, confetti-like flowers that twist all the way along their up-reaching branches in shades of bright yellow to deep orange. And they’re fragrant besides.

Tall Sarcococca, called “Sweet Box,” is a delicate low hedge of glossy green leaves featuring white to cream-colored flowers partly concealed in the leaf joints. These perfume the air with a vanilla-spice fragrance. Sarcococca ruscifolia has small red berries, while the virtually indistinguishable Sarcococca confusa has small black berries resembling currants or huckleberries.

Pink Dawn Viburnum (Viburnum bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’) is a tall, upright shrub with lovely, Daphne-like fragrant pink flower clusters that bloom on the bare wood.

Hellebore Hybrids (hybrids of Helleborus orientalis, also known as “Lenten Rose”) offer downward-pointed, cup-like flowers in shades ranging from white to chartreuse to pale pinks, mauves and purples on a low-growing evergreen shrub or tall ground cover. These are flowers that I always think of as painted in water colors rather than oils. You can select a variety for a desired color or just purchase randlomly mixed hybrids and enjoy the resulting color rainbow.

If you had all 5 selections in your garden, January would not be a dead month in the garden after all!

Helleborus orientalis hybrids 

Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’

Should I stain my fence?

By Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb:

Clients often ask me, ‘what should I do about my fence?’ I always tell them, stain it or paint it a dark, warm color, such as dark warm gray, charcoal, deep olive green, or even black. The green foliage and vibrant colors of plants really “pop” against a dark background, and after all, the goal with a garden design is to give you lovely plant massings to look at, rather than acres of fence. The subject comes up regularly, though, because typically builders of new homes and fence contractors alike leave a brand new fence or deck with no stain. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen brand new houses, beautifully painted or stained, with un-stained decks sticking onto them like a sore thumb. The thought that people have, if there is one, is that the goal is for that unstained wood construction to dry to a beautiful silver. Unfortunately, that never happens unless your home is at the seashore where you have plenty of sun, wind and especially salt air to weather the fence. In town, unstained fences only turn a mottled gray and brown, and the pressure-treated posts change color at a different rate Super Jack.

Moreover, decks should be stained or painted a dark color so as to reduce glare. With light-stained decks, the sun bounces off the horizontal surface, causing annoying glare. Additionally, light-stained decks reveal all the inconsistencies in the wood grain, while dark decks tend to hide those imperfections.

Stain is recommended over paint because paint can flake off over time. Cabot has a good line of “semi-solid” stain colors. Semi-solid stain is ideal for most fence and deck stain projects because it absorbs into the wood grain more than semi-transparent, meaning that you don’t have to re-stain as often. At the same time, it is less likely to flake off than solid body stain, which behaves a lot like paint. Normally you need two coats, and you need to apply it only when you’re confident to have four or five days of dry weather after the stain is applied. The good news is that you can now get latex stain, rather than oil-based, which makes it easier to apply and wash up afterwards.

Great Plant Picks for Winter


Snowberry – Symphoricarpos albus


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Volunteer Park Landmark Designation Wins Historic Seattle Preservation Award By Brooks Kolb, ASLA

At the Fourth Annual Historic Seattle Preservation Awards Ceremony, held at the Good Shepherd Center in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood on May 15, 2012, The Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks (FSOP) received the Community Advocacy Award for the Volunteer Park Landmark Designation.  One of eight awards given by Historic Seattle in 2012, the Community Advocacy Award commemorates FSOP’s hard work first to prepare the Landmark Nomination document for Volunteer Park and then to lead it through the review and approval process by Seattle’s Board of Landmark Preservation.  The Landmark Board applauded our presentation of the nomination in September, 2011, voting unanimously to approve the nomination and later to designate Volunteer Park as a Seattle landmark.

As a board member and then president of FSOP from 2008-2011, I led a 5-year long committee effort to research and write the nomination and submit it to the Landmark board.  The other three committee members contributing to the nomination are past FSOP treasurer and chief author Charlie Sundberg; past FSOP vice president and co-author Sue Nicol; and current president and editor Jennifer Ott, who graciously received the award on behalf of FSOP at the May 15 ceremony.

In a beautifully produced booklet for the awards ceremony, Historic Seattle wrote:

“The Community Advocacy Award goes to the Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks (FSOP) for the arduous work involved in preparing a complex and successful landmark nomination application for Volunteer Park.  The organization’s documentation of this complicated and highly significant cultural landscape serves to insure the preservation of Volunteer Park and fosters the on-going recognition of our unique citywide Olmsted legacy.

Realizing that Volunteer Park was the most comprehensively designed and faithfully preserved component within the citywide Olmsted-designed plan for the Seattle Park system, FSOP board members prepared…an impressive 110-page document that provides a thorough description of the park’s landscape features and elements as a whole, as well as specifically documents various component buildigns, structures, monuments and water features and small-scale design elements.  It includes in-depth contextual information regarding the national, local and neighborhood significance of the Seattle work of the Olmsted firm and the history and evolution of the park itself.”

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