Things in our business seem to come in waves….including the rain! We are hoping Houston dries out soon but that just means hot, humid days with clouds of mosquitoes. This spring we had a wave of customers come to us wanting to enjoy the tiny outdoor spaces that come with their townhomes. It is a challenge to maximize the function while adding visual appeal to these small spaces. Today I will start with the smallest one. Here is a before shot of the little patch of dirt right next to the front entry walkway that comes right off the alley driveway.
We took out the oleander but kept the Indian Hawthorn with the Crape myrtle in the middle. Behind this we installed a cedar privacy screen and gate to block the noise from the driveway that leads to all the garages in the row of homes. We extended the usable space by making the brick patio come up to the same level as the cement side walk. You can see it was not a very big space to work in. A two-man crew was the max for this job. And if you look at the bottom of the cedar screen you will see that the space they dug for the fountain basin is completely full of water. I think I have the most fun when the homeowners trust me to give them a cool space. In this case the space was constraining enough with out having too big of a wish list from the homeowner. One thing that isn’t obvious is behind the screen are outdoor grade mirror panels. They are building more tall townhomes next door and this will totally block the view from the patio area. This garden has a bit of a Zen twist with the mossy boulder and Japanese maple. I usually don’t use so many different hardscape materials in a small space and considered using more cement for the patio but since the house had brick on it I decided to see if we could find some reclaimed brick that would have more texture and character than plain cement. The fountain is just the right size for this space and the sound of running water will help block out the street noise. Drainage is an issue here and we need to leave a gap for the water to travel through to the alley. We used rainbow gravel to fill it because it is bright and visually interesting. The guys did a wonderful job working the brick around the mossy boulder. The Leopard Ligularia (Farfugium) tussilaginea ‘Aureo-maculata’is a great plant for shade and both frost and heat tolerant. It has a mounding growth habit and only wants to be about 18 inches tall and wide full grown. I think it looks like it has spots of sunshine on its leaves.I wish we could have grown something on the neighbors wall too. The Japanese Maple is an, Acer palmatum ‘Waterfall’ it is very slow growing to 8 feet. In should not over grow this shady corner and can always be trimmed. This is what it looks like from the outside. I think the lines work and it will actually blend in even better once the cedar has grayed. We could have done a taller gate for more privacy but because the front door was glass I decided it was better if you could see who was coming in the gate. The wood beam going all the way across the top is meant to be reminiscent of a torii lintel.What do you think: a cafe table and two chairs or one nice wooden deck chair?