A Satellite Dish Gazebo

In 2016, Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb had the opportunity to design a large garden on a beautiful, 5-acre wooded property in Redmond, Washington.  Out in the woodland surrounding the house, Brooks came upon an old satellite dish.  Long disused, it reminded him of an ancient technological artifact similar to the mysterious ones that often appeared in the science-fiction TV series, “Lost.”  Admiring its umbrella-like form, Brooks suggested turning it into a gazebo, and to his delight, his client agreed.  Together, they decided to relocate it to an upland site above the approach drive, which they quickly dubbed “Gazebo Hill.”  To turn the dish into a gazebo, it was necessary to invert it and then for it to ‘grow legs,’ which became narrow, round steel posts.  To provide rain protection, they covered the steel mesh between the ribs of the umbrella top with translucent polycarbonate panels.  When finished, the gazebo assumed the form of a flying saucer recently landed in Redmond, another vignette that would not have been out of place in a “Lost” episode.  There you have it, a garden “folly” with a modern twist!





The satellite dish as first “discovered”




The finished gazebo

How to Landscape for Privacy By Eugene Bryson, with Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb


Good landscaping can beautify your garden and increase the value of your Seattle area home. The right landscaping also will protect your home life from nosy neighbors.


Privacy is crucial for enjoying your yard. A good fence will keep prying eyes out, and children and pets in. A fence also can block out traffic noise from nearby streets and freeways.


But you don’t have to erect a stone wall or even a wooden fence to create a private backyard oasis.


Whether you engage Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb or do it yourself, landscaping for privacy falls into two broad categories: hardscaping and softscaping.





Fences, retaining walls, and other permanent structures such as walks, decks, fences, and patios fall into the category of hardscaping.


A wooden, concrete, or vinyl fence will provide you with privacy, but at a cost. Wooden fences need painting or staining. Vinyl can become brittle in cold weather, and concrete block walls can be expensive to install. Iron fences can rust and don’t offer much privacy.

A fence also can pose challenges when mowing your lawn. And contrary to the cliche, good fences don’t always make good neighbors, especially if your neighbor objects to its appearance.  On the plus side, building a fence on a shared property line creates an opportunity to work out the design details with your neighbors and share the costs with them.


One good option is to install a lattice fence or a solid fence with an open lattice top which vines can grow through, softening the look with blooms and green foliage.  


Arbors or pergolas:

A covering over your outdoor living area can provide shelter from sun and rain – and privacy from neighbors with multi-story homes. Consider building it with open beams to let in plenty of light and create interesting shadow patterns on your deck or patio.  If you prefer a covered space, a glass or plexiglas roof works best in the Seattle area, because solid roofs block out much-needed light, especially in the winter.  Pergolas also allow for stylish hanging chairs or hammocks to relax in.


If you’re thinking of building a pergola or arbor, ask yourself if you really want to sit outside in the rain.  If not, an open roof arbor should work just fine.  Before you invest too much time and money in the idea, though, consult your local land use code to see what structure setback lines will constrain its size and configuration.  Arbors are considered structures, and as such, they cannot be built right up to the property line.  In most cases, building permits are required.  Also, be sure to give some thought to how the post spacing and beam heights will line up with your window, door, and roof gutter lines.  Very often it is tricky to make an arbor blend in effectively with your house architecture.




Softscaping includes trees, shrubs, and hedges, essentially anything that grows.

You can mix or match these elements in any manner to make your garden unique and attractive. Planting a row of trees or an informal hedge of shrubs literally adds life, including light, shadow, color and movement to your landscape, not to mention seasonal change.


Privacy landscaping is limited only by your imagination and budget, and the available space.  For all but the narrowest of plants, a border of at least four feet in width is needed to create a successful privacy screen.


Here are some ways you can use softscaping to protect your privacy:


Evergreens trees and shrubs:

The Emerald City is famous for its low-maintenance evergreens (12 Methods of Low-Maintenance Landscaping in Seattle – Lawnstarter)  which provide great windbreaks. And since they keep their leaves year-round, leaf-raking and cleanup will be minimal.


A wall of evergreens can become a nearly impenetrable barrier and double as windbreaks in cold, windy weather.  Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb can consult with you on the many varieties that can be considered, along with their specific pros and cons.


Hedges and Borders:

Hedges have been used as barriers since the Bronze Age and can be just as effective today to define property lines.  Another bonus?   Hedges can be either a formally trimmed single species formally trimmed or an informally grouped arrangement of diverse species. You can most trim hedges to virtually any height, width, or shape, constrained only by the mature height and width of the species in question.   





Tall ornamental grasses can grow in clusters for privacy, but are generally more effective as accent plants, due to their changing appearance throughout the year.


Don’t forget the lighting and cameras:


A fence or hedge can protect you from prying eyes, but it also can shield prowlers and burglars. Adequate lighting should be part of your landscaping, too, and security cameras offer extra peace of mind.


Don’t bite off more than you can chew:


Landscaping for privacy or just for beautification can be an exciting project, but keep in mind it requires maintenance – especially softscaping.


Living things have to be watered, fertilized, trimmed, and pruned. That’s a years-long commitment, so be realistic about how much time, effort, and expense you’re willing to invest


A quality professional landscaping service is one way to take all or part of that burden off your shoulders, but they are not all created equal.  According to Seattle landscape architect, Brooks Kolb, as many as 90 or 95 percent of landscape maintenance contractors are poorly trained in the arts of pruning, with little or no knowledge about the importance of mulching.  If you’re not careful in what company or gardener you select, you can lose your initial investment in the plants—and you pay that company for their injurious practices.  Many needlessly use pesticides, causing more harm to your garden than good.  Be sure you research them carefully before you hire them.  A great resource for proper pruning is www.plantamnesty.org.


Eugene Bryson is a freelance writer and landscaper.  As a Washington native, he roots for the Mariners to one day make it to the World Series.

All photographs by Brooks Kolb, from his designs.

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/



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


Brooks Kolb in “Exceptional Properties” Magazine

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb’s residential landscape design is featured in the September/October 2012 issue of “Exceptional Properties” Magazine.  In an article called “Localism Meets the Landscape – Creating Formal Gardens that Look Like They’ve Always Been There,” author Nanci Theoret focuses on the work of Chicago firm Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects as well as Brooks Kolb LLC.  As Theoret puts it, “…across the country, there is a stream of consciousness to use plant materials indigenous to a specific region and a concerted effort to create more sustainable gardens.”

In the article, Theoret paraphrases Brooks Kolb:

“Homes within Seattle’s city limits pack a lot into every square foot of garden space out of necessity; homesites are small, says Brooks Kolb, a landscape architect there.  Urban residents, he says, want more hardscape elements – paths, hot tubs, outdoor fireplaces, and water features – to maximize use of these smaller alfresco areas.”

“ ‘People think of a garden as a place to sit outside,’ Kolb says.  ‘They want outdoor areas for seating, dining, and entertaining.   Some of my clients are avid gardeners; others just want to enjoy the feeling of being in a garden, to enjoy the fragrance and sensory qualities.’”

Here’s a link to the full article: http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/00b26966#/00b26966/10, turn to pages 6-10.
Two photographs of Brooks Kolb’s work are published in the article, as displayed below.  The top photo is from the Blue  Ridge Garden; the bottom photo is from the Matthews Beach Garden.  For more information about both garden designs, please visit the portfolio page athttp://www.brookskolbllc.com

Fall Color Arrives at the Pike’s Peak Garden

We are proud to present these two images of fall color at the Pike’s Peak Garden, which was designed by Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb and installed ten years ago.  These photographs were taken by the owner, Jeff Lum, in the last week or so.



Presenting Russ Beardsley, Master Stonemason

Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb is currently working on a project in Bellingham, Washington, involving gabion garden retaining walls.  Look for an upcoming blog entry on gabion walls in garden construction.  Brooks’ client was smart enough to find a master stonemason to install the walls:  Russ Beardsley of Borrowed Ground, http://www.borrowedground.com.  A former metal craftsman and former member of the Denver Art Commission, Russ is nothing short of an artist in stone.  Here are three images of his amazing work for another client in Bellingham:Image

Russ Beardsley’s Dry-set Wall with a crenelated coping, similar to traditional Irish and Scottish walls. No mortar has been used in this wall and the coping pieces are absolutely locked into place!

ImageRuss Beardsley’s dry-set Gothic arch, with a granite keystone, defying gravity.


Russ Beardsley’s cantilevered stone stair.  These stone treads appear to float above the slope.  Actually, they are anchored with 2/3rds of the length of each tread set deep into the hillside.

You may ask, why is Russ’ company named “Borrowed Ground?”  It’s from the deeply spiritual Native American idea that we don’t own the earth or the ground; we merely borrow it while we’re here.

Laurelhurst Hillside Garden in “Pacific NW” Magazine

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb’s Laurelhurst Hillside Garden was featured in the January 27, 2013 issue of the Seattle Times’ “Pacific NW” magazine. “Growing Up Gracefully: Gentle Curves and Masses of Plants Keep a Garden Looking Good” was the way Times writer Valerie Easton titled the piece.

Quoting from Valerie Easton’s article,

“A great view is about all Kevin and Jean Kelly’s Laurelhurst garden had going for it when landscape architect Brooks Kolb first saw it.  The topography was precipitous, the plantings worn, the steep steps down to the garden cracked and broken.  The handsome old house not only lacked connection to the garden, it turned its back to it…”

“Kolb started by designing an entry terrace to connect the old house to its new garden.  A geotech warned against filling in with heavy soil, so Kolb used foam to raise the grade about a foot.  Now the expanded porch steps graciously down to a terrace at lawn level.  Kolb replaced the chute-like stairs with a gentle S-curve of steps that wind their way through fragrant shrubbery….”

“How to create a garden that’s tactile, scented and seasonal, yhet so easy to care for? ‘The garden isn’t Noah’s ark, there aren’t just two of anything,’ says Kolb of his strategy of massing grasses, prennials and small shrubs…”

“Both Kelly and Kolb emphasize the importance of teamwork in the garden’s success.  Kelly had a vision, Kolb realized it, and gardener Eileen O’Leary stepped in to maintain the place. ‘Gardens evolve,’ says Kolb, who includes a yearly post-evaluation with all his landscapes.”

Here’s a link to the full article: http://seattletimes.com/html/pacificnw/2020148828_pacificpnwl27.html.

The project team included Dochnahl Construction (concrete and foam work); Gardenstone Masonry (Wilkeson sandstone masonry); Clayton E. Morgan Landscaping (softscape.)

Kelly July 2011 035

The S-curve sandstone stair from below


“Before” picture

Brooks Kolb’s “Atomic Ranch House” Garden Design featured in “Pacific NW” Magazine

A photograph of  Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb’s garden design was included in a “Northwest Living” story in the March 3, 2012 Seattle Times “Pacific NW” Magazine.  Bearing the expressive title, “Big Blast from the Atomic Ranch Past,”  Becky Teagarden’s article describes the creative and meticulous way in which Sabrina Libertty restored her West Seattle mid-century modern home with exuberant furnishings, art and industrial design from the period.  Brooks’ job as landscape architect was to fulfill Sabrina’s dream of a mid-century modern garden such as one would expect to find in Palm Springs.  It didn’t hurt that a huge cache of red lava rock gravel covered most of the side yard, and we recycled it as pebble banding in new poured concrete pathways.

Built on several levels, the new garden is divided into two sub-spaces, one for the primary use of the owners, plus a smaller outdoor terrace and deck for their vacation rental guests in “Suite Shagalicious,” downstairs below the main living space.  Horizontally clad fences were designed to harmonize with the existing railing on an upper deck.  The owner’s garden features a paved cove with a portable fire feature.  An invisible turf paving system called “Geoblock” was used to create an occasional parking space.Watch Full Movie Streaming Online and Download

Here’s a link to the article and Ben Benschneider’s photograph of the architecture and landscape:


Meanwhile, here’s a photograph taken toward the end of the contsruction:


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