Kristin Ohlson’s garden takes sustainability to the next level: supporting life above and below the ground.
At the front of this corner lot, two old Camellias and a tree-like Rhododendron form the centerpiece of a woodland garden along the sidewalk. Round slabs, crafted from Norway maple trees, create a magical path that, along with spent flowers and leaves enhance soil microbe and plant health. Natives and other low-maintenance, drought-tolerant shade plants support a variety of birds and wildlife.
Near the house, new retaining walls cut from old concrete paths edge the woodland planting. A stately, dry laid and permeable entry patio of variegated bluestone now ties together two matching Bungalow style porches. Rain gardens collect and filter storm water from their roofs.
The fence was built to secure her two dogs before their arrival. Fences always create a stir in this celebrated neighborhood, so an early goal was to set Kris’ back far enough to preserve the open character of the street as recommended in the Historic Ladd’s Addition Conservation District Design Guidelines.
The parameters of the small back yard living space were dictated by the fence setbacks. Kris’ desire for a dining and entertainment space led to the creation of a playful circular patio of wood, stone and repurposed material, including rocks from her collection. A colorful curtain of evergreens screens the property from neighboring houses while clever fence design and plant placement opens views to the city rose garden across the street.
Two raised beds crafted from sustainable Oregon juniper are home to the kitchen garden situated in the sunny, hot side yard. Edibles include blueberries, apples, strawberries, artichoke and persimmon. Herbs and other edibles can be found amongst the other flowering plants throughout the backyard.
Pollinators abound in this organic garden that emphasizes the principles found in Kristin’s recent book, The Soil Will Save Us. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and turn the carbon into sugars, nearly half of which are exuded by their roots. Soil microorganisms thrive by eating those sugars and, in turn, supply nutrients to plants. The microorganisms also make a carbon glue to engineer the soil, creating structure that holds water, and as these microscopic communities thrive they fix some of this carbon in the soil. Fallen leaves, lawn clippings and deadwood branches are welcome in this garden, as they feed the abundant insect and microscopic life on and below the ground.
Kristin Ohlson’s Garden is a collaborative effort between the homeowner, lead designer Amy Whitworth of Plan-it Earth Design, with layout by Lora Price of Design with Nature and planting assistance from Annie Bamberger of Annie Bam Landscape Solutions. Thoughtful and detail oriented hardscape and rain garden installation, soil prep and planting was performed by J. Walter Landscape & Irrigation.
A special thanks to Shelley Durica-Laiche of Indio Metal Arts, with fabulous works from recycled materials on display and available for sale at the garden.