When Al and Cathie Schmitt realized if they ever wanted real privacy in their back garden, they would have to take matters into their own hands, it changed everything.
Even their front garden.
First, they contacted landscape designer Marcia Westcott Peck, who designed both the front and back gardens and advised them throughout the project.
On the privacy front, Marcia designed two screens, one featuring hand-cut copper leaves, as well as plant material that would help add privacy. But they didn’t stop there. Not even close.
While they were at it, they got rid of a large cedar whose time had come and removed a rotten deck, replacing them with what they call an extension of their indoor living space to the outside.
In the back garden, which has Mediterranean influences, this includes a patio, concrete benches, a water feature, a dryset path of split basalt, bermed planting beds, amended soil, 1/4” #10 rock, new irrigation and lighting, and a lot less lawn. Contractors did the patio and concrete work, but the Schmitts installed the rest.
Al was hesitant to take out so much of the old lawn, since their granddaughters played on it. He needn’t have worried. They actually play much more outside now on the patio and reduced grass area than they ever did on the larger lawn. And Marcia designed the gardens with what she calls flex space, which can be used by anywhere from one person to a large group of people. Or, for the grandkids to play in or to host a large party complete with portable firepit.
Then there’s the front garden.
In this case, based on Marcia’s plan, all the lawn and boxwood hedges came out, replaced by a water feature and a little sitting patio, a modernized version in its way of a wraparound porch. The highlight, though, could be the hand-cut stone walls that Al labored over to create the garden beds, an effort Al described as well worth it, but also one that “just about wore me out.”
Between the front and back gardens, the Schmitts estimate it took them about four years to install — they started the renovation in 2011 with Marcia’s designs.
J.P. Stone installed the patio, but the Schmitts took on a lot of the work themselves, putting in water features, screens, lighting irrigation, paths, plants and just about everything else.
And neither has any second thoughts about all that work. They use their garden a lot more now and find themselves out enjoying it all the time.
Marcia has been a landscape designer since 1995 and a columnist for The Oregonian’s Homes & Gardens section for over five years. She brings her artistic background into her work. She’s won gold medals for her display gardens, and her gardens have also been featured in numerous newspapers and magazines and on dozens of tours.