GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2006 show19
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Show #19/406

Dallas residents love their landscapes and gardens and plant everything from tropicals to alpines. In this show, we visit 2 very different Dallas gardens. One is designed by a landscape designer who has used clever editing techniques to give the landscape a unique look and feel; the second, the backyard of a landscape architect who has applied clever but classic principles and pulled it off beautifully. With the right techniques, gardens can be made to feel larger or more intimate or both. Even the feeling of movement and energy can be achieved creating a unique and special place. The landscapes seem larger in Dallas. You're in for a treat as we examine 2 very different gardens in Dallas, Texas.

Rebecca Sherman is the Executive Editor at D Home and Garden Magazine in Dallas, Texas. At D Home they cover houses, interiors, lifestyle and they cover gardens. The gardens we visit today are atypical. Rebecca believes that when a lot of people think about or visit Dallas they think of the stereotypical big house or big yards. That trend has been changing over the decades. Dallas is in the 9th year of below average rainfall and this summer there is a drought. Dealing with the water shortage has been a bit of a challenge, particularly keeping inappropriate plants, shrubs and grasses watered. This problem is changing the face of gardens and Dallas residents are looking at new possibilities, they're rethinking the types of plants they utilize. At D Home and Garden Magazine they are launching a series of articles beginning in January of '07 that address the topic, "Rethinking The Front Lawn." "D" will show their readers how to do it well. Two Dallas gardeners, who have created atypical gardens while incorporating plants and flowers that most haven't used or seen in Dallas, are featured on this show. Rebecca is excited that people will get to see these 2 gardens because they're very special gardens, done by 2 extraordinary gardeners in the Dallas area.

Joe first meets Robert Bellamy. He has a company, Robert Bellamy Design. Robert has been working in the dirt for about 25 years.

Robert shows us one of his latest landscapes. He finished this project last week but is still playing with it a little. Joe gets the feel that this is a Texas or Dallas landscape but can't put his finger on the reason. Robert says it is because of the texture, plus there are a lot of native trees, and native plants, most of them low water oriented.

When Robert is working with a homeowner and their design, he wants to incorporate and accent different features. Importantly, the color of the house and the textures of what is there should be emphasized. This homeowner said "Take everything out because it doesn't look good." Robert felt the owner had chosen this space for specific reasons. He must have liked something. Thus, they retained some, edited quite a bit, then reassembled it, putting it together like they were rearranging furniture. This gave the homeowner more of the quality of what he wanted without reinventing the wheel and starting over. For example there are about 3 trees from a grouping of 6 or 7 in the front that they rearranged, as well they lifted some things up and moved them around, rearranged and massaged it all. As well, they made changes to the land itself.

Joe notices many of those vignettes in the front yard and wants to get started looking. A natural place to start is the front entrance. Joe and Robert first focus on the area between the sidewalk and the street because so few people do anything with that area. When Robert inherited the job it was a solid landscape, like a rock quarry. They bracketed the front yard with 2 Mesquite trees and then placed a few plants around, just to soften it up. It frames the house and yard and leads one up to the yard and straight to the front door. But there is a lot of interest before you get there.

Earlier there were some big stepping-stones. They tightened that up, flared out the sides, used some of the boulders, then wrapped them with some soil. A small amount of grass was utilized, an idea of the owner. They've utilized Buffalo grass rather than gravel or ground cover. Robert likes the texture, it rarely, if ever, needs mowed, it tufts up, provides blossoms and gives a Texasy landscape feel. It's unusual for mainstream Dallas but Robert likes it.

Joe likes the use of space between the stoop and driveway. It has the feel of a room. Robert says that is a perfect word. They've made a room in the front of the house that provides a place that's more contemplative. It's conducive for sitting. By berming up the soil and using some of the boulders to make a retaining wall, it sort of wrapped this little area and made it cozy. Both Joe and Robert feel it would be a great place for a morning cup of coffee. Joe likes the use of plant material. There are a lot of different textures; especially important is the use of appropriate plant material. It is to scale in this area and is great, it's not overpowering. It worked well because wrapping it up with the trees provided the venue for smaller things that can be sort of surprising, as the owner likes to say. Little sedums and flowering things, small texture junipers, sort of cushion the ground and wrap one in. From the inside of the house, one can look onto this space without seeing cars or houses beyond. From the street there is privacy into the house because they see plant material rather than into the windows. As the plants grow they will wrap the area even more, that will make the water sound even stronger when walking to the front door. The water makes one take notice of the garden or sense the garden is there.

Another great look in a small space is laid out in a 5 by 5 area. Robert in this area has repeated patterns and themes, for example the Buffalo grass from the center garden. One doesn't need a whole lot of repetition just enough to provide unity. Robert likes this space. It's a good vignette in the sense that the grass comes in, you stair step up to the rock and you've got the prostrate Deodara Cedar (Cedrus deodara 'Viridis Prostrata') which pulls in the texture of the Deodar Cedar on the side. Another boulder was sunk into the ground to make it more subtle. The grey against the Kelly green, against the Weeping Yaupon that will have berries in the winter, pulls it all together. Joe notices that there aren't flowers in this area to provide color but there is enough interest in different shades of earth tones to match and blend it all together. For example, the crushed gravel next to the wood mulch provides completely different looks but they blend nicely together. Robert likes the fact that the gravel works somewhat as a mulch, but it's completely traversable. It holds out the weeds, yet one can walk through the garden, all while enjoying the fact that the textures are balanced.

Robert in a side area was able to take trees from the front, where they looked ghostly, and put them someplace he never would have thought about using them, lining the driveway which previously was dreadful and boring. The end result is so much fun, it hides the fence, yet the energy from the weeping trees, cascading over at night, although somewhat ghostly, are wonderful looking. Joe feels it is a perfect marriage. Where else will one find something tall and narrow, with the added bonus that no new plants were needed. Robert says he will use this idea again.

Robert has recycled other material in the yard. One spot was a stone quarry, bone yard, because there were originally boulders here. Robert thought this was a great space to make a raised bed and plant a tree. The foundation was high enough, plus it was a great way to make a gateway to the garden. It was also a perfect place for the Japanese Maple, the owner had wanted because it had shade from the neighbor's big overhead Red Oak tree. Robert pushed the envelope with the cost of plant material and bought a specimen Japanese Maple. It's a beautiful tree. After planted the owner wanted Robert to come in and put in little surprises. Robert told him that he should do that, be autonomous, don't be afraid, try something, find out if sun or shade oriented and put it in the garden yourself. Then you'll have ownership and be involved with your garden. Although the owner wasn't a gardener, he found, chose and planted the plants the next day. He previously had some great ideas but hadn't developed the confidence to do it himself. With the bones of the garden in, which meant one couldn't really make a mistake, he developed the needed confidence. Plus, Robert says, it's easy dirt to dig in.

Joe finds another small space. Robert has given it its own look and feel. Robert says it was the hottest patio in Texas when they started. The owner wanted the feel of a submerged patio. Robert tightened it up, punctuated it with a River Birch, something the owner wanted. This gave the area the feeling of shade and a little bit of dappled light, they then added a fountain on one side. The owner gave Robert another good idea with a picture of rough cedar posts coming out of the ground. To accommodate these they bermed the surrounding area, giving it a feeling of layering and texturing. The plantings will, again, texture up, they'll layer in and one will feel the effect of the different color qualities. It should, hopefully, with time, give the impression that one is snookered down in a garden.

Joe thanks Robert and tells him we're off to see Dave Ralston. Robert thanks Joe as well and tells him he will enjoy Dave's garden. He has worked on it for years and it is beautiful.

Dave Rolston is a landscape architect in Dallas and has been here for 20-25 years. Joe, by looking at the front of the house can tell we're in for a treat but asks first about the house. This house was designed as a modern house in 1949 and was featured in a magazine. The owner gave it to the contractor and said, "Now, make this house colonial." When Dave got the house it was a weird mix of styles. Slowly they've been transforming the house making it a bit more contemporary, a little more modern.

When they bought the house they got a book with it. The book described how the previous owner built the entire house and included her dreams for every room as well as the landscape. It showed garden rooms, fountains, little nooks and all. It was an incredible set of wishes that she had for the garden. But when they got the house it was a square patch of St. Augustine lawn with Iris planted in a straight line around the perimeter. Joe is anxious to see the transformation.

Dave first shows Joe a Coral Bean Bush where some of the Iris had been. The Coral Bean Bush (Erythrina herbacea) is a perennial that freezes back to the ground every winter, comes up and burst forth with foliage in the spring. Then about a month after it comes out of the ground it blooms incredible coral-red flowers that cover the plant. It's a real showstopper.

Joe asks Dave about his landscape signature or trait, something that might be consistent from project to project. If Dave does a formal landscape, a gardeny type of landscape he has a certain way he arranges plants, the juxtaposition of plants. It's something he feels, he arranges them in a way that is Dave Rolston. It's somewhat intuitive, it's what he feels.

Although it doesn't look that way, Joe asks "Are you the cobbler's kids who doesn't have any time to work in the garden?" It looks like Dave spends hours out here. Dave said it took years to establish the garden and in the beginning he spent 20-25 hours a week in this garden. He was addicted to his landscape and garden and constructing it. About 5 years ago, he and his wife adopted a daughter from China and it was an incredible change in their life. They had to change their life and needed to make time for her and for raising her. Thus, he's remodeled the landscape, changed a lot of plants and learned a lot. He now has low maintenance plants and is down to about 4 or 5 hours a week. Dave has changed the way they are arranged and the way he works with them, making it easier. When gardening 25 hours a week he had a Monet type garden, a lot of perennials, a lot of annuals and he kept everything blooming in sequence. It required a lot of thought and planning, rearranging and dividing plants. Since he cut back on his labor, he has gone more towards texture and color. It is now much easier, actually more fun, because the subtlety of creating a really great look with texture and color and just a few perennials here and there makes the garden spectacular.

As Joe looks across the garden the views go on forever, yet at the same time gets the sense that he's in a more intimate space. Dave tells us that this lot is 2/3 of an acre which is pretty big by urban standards, but he has borrowed a lot of views. There's an iron fence on 1 side, on the other side the neighbor's yard which is 1 and 1/2 acres and on the backside one can see into the park. Keep the plants low, you get to look at them, you don't lose that much privacy, but you do get to borrow the view.

Dave says he loves to prune, in fact some say he prunes to a fault, possibly too much. But pruning can be a good thing. An example is a Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) that had been so full one couldn't see anything underneath. Dave started pruning and exposing the trunks and branches and found that it was a beautiful tree. By doing this he created a focal point and it allowed for the borrowed view.

They next talk about the garden rooms Dave has created. Although on 2/3 of an acre one can feel they are in their own special place. Dave, to accomplish that, didn't want the eye to see everything at once; he has blocked one's eye, making the eye move around. Additionally, the backyard falls in height almost eight feet, so one gets a sense of movement. To emphasize the effect he has used grass as a ribbon, kind of like a waterway to flow down.

As one moves through the pathways, Dave has bermed up the land and used plants so that they create a walled space. One actually has to look around a corner to go into a new space. To create the berm, Dave used the soil from the water features he had dug.

One area, a lower room, reminds Joe of a bowl. Dave tried to create a distinctive space that had its own feel. He bermed it up, all the dirt came from the pond on the top. Previously this had been a sloped space. He dug the dirt out, made it flat on the top, then created stairways as a transition between the 2 areas. There is architectural movement leading to the ramp or stairs. Dave was once told by a designer that whenever one goes into a room, one should have an entrance and an exit. Without these it makes one feel there is no place to go, it is claustrophobic. This space has both.

This being a lower room, the water flows from high to low but would continue outside the property. To combat this Dave has bermed the perimeter areas as well. That is what berming is for. He wanted a visual feeling of a bowl but he is also conservative. He likes to keep as much water as possible on his property. By bowling it out the water stays on his property and soaks in which makes it great for trees and plants.

As one transitions up the staircase, from the exit, one goes to another room. There is a formal allay, kind of sight line with a fountain at the end. This room is off his wife's studio meaning she has this view all the time. And, it's an intimate view. Again, one asks the question, "how big is this landscape?" That is because one sees only one room in this view. Dave has seating areas that are in foliage and shade, seating areas in full sun and seating areas around a fishpond, surrounded by Honeysuckle. As well there is a wading pool for his daughter, it's 18 feet in diameter, and only 1 and 1/2 feet deep. It's fun for her.

Joe hears the water features, now he and Dave visit one. This room is underneath the Honeysuckle bush that he's trimmed. This fishpond is gunite with a biological filter. Dave cleans the filter every 1 and 1/2 to 2 months. It takes 10 minutes and isn't a lot of work. The fish eat the algae off the sides, thus it's low maintenance. Before, he had a stream that went from the upper pool all the way down and terminated at the bottom of the property. It leaked, it was a nightmare, so when they got their daughter he remodeled, did it in gunite, the way it should have been done. Now it doesn't leak. Dave has a variety of water features. He tries not to obsess over everything matching. He feels if you find a room, then find the same thing again, it bores you. The fishpond is organic and traditional, the circular pond up higher can be seen from below, therefore kind of connects and the materials, stone, etc. are the same in both. Another is more formalized and has an 18-foot diameter circle. Then there is one with a copper kettle, a formalized idea. He has recently added a steel fountain that is totally contemporary and modern.

Speaking of contemporary and modern Dave has added furniture that has a contemporary look. That's an important point to address in landscape design. It's not all about plants; one should incorporate water and hardscapes as well as, sometimes, furniture. He has used them almost like a perennial or seasonal color. Bright color sparks the eye. It is seen from the distance, so you're drawn in and say, "What's that?" If it were a wood bench it would blend in, so something more exciting is noticed from a distance.

Joe thanks Dave. This has been a great experience. We appreciate Dave showing us his backyard. It is beautiful. This is a beautiful spot to end the day.

Links ::

Gaylord Texan Grapevine Resort and Convention Center
Robert Bellamy Design
David Rolston Landscape Architect
Rebecca Sherman - DHome

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