Terraced Garden Serves as an Urban SanctuaryA small property in need of an identity gets personalized outdoor rooms that delight the senses
LEFT: Scot Eckley, his wife Devin Fitzpatrick, and friends enjoy the built-in, ventless gas fireplace on chilly evenings. A sturdy cement wall separates the sunken lounge and upper dining terrace. Boston ivy, which softens the wall, turns a brilliant rainbow of colors in the fall. RIGHT: Adjacent to the lawn, a gravel path marks the transition to the potager. Gold, crushed stone and metal accents brighten the space. Water for the family dog is provided by a decorative spigot in the rust-colored wall. Focal points including the small, stone bowl, a fountain atop the steel wall, and a Venetian-style urn at the end of the path draw the eye through the landscape.
LEFT: A classic-style zinc table and ceramic bowl adorned with succulents is the focal point of the entry garden. The plantings in the bowl are updated seasonally to create a fresh look. RIGHT: Steps inlaid with turf appear to be all one level from the home’s upper story. Vignettes of the yard viewed from inside the house were a careful consideration in the overall design.
LEFT: A metal gate made from an antique Moroccan window screen opens from the front entry garden onto a side path. Stone pavers that transition to gravel help define individual spaces, making the landscape more visually appealing. RIGHT: Located at the home’s rear entrance, a dining patio allows easy access to the indoor kitchen. Greens and other edibles add to the mood, as they surround the dining patio-notably the salad garden behind the bench.
Seattle may not be known for the steep hills that San Francisco is famous for, but the terrain is no less formidable. Scot Eckley’s urban garden was no exception: the 46-by-100-foot lot was long and narrow with an uneven slope, making any sort of landscaping a challenge.
Eckley, a professional landscape designer (Scot Eckley Inc.) and his wife Devin Fitzpatrick, an interior designer, combined their respective skills to conceptualize a space that would be highly functional, yet comfortable and refined. “I took the approach that my client for this project was actually my wife,” says Eckley.
Together, Eckley and Fitzpatrick brainstormed a wish list for their property:
- Spaces for dining, entertaining, and relaxing
- A dog run for their affable Labrador retriever
- A French-style potager
- A utility area with a potting bench
Their ultimate goals were to maximize the limited space of their small garden and to create a peaceful, private sanctuary away from the urban bustle.
The garden evolved over several years. Quick-growing hedges of x Cupressocyparis leylandii (Leyland cypress) were installed on three sides to enclose the lot. In front, a Prunus laurocerasus (English laurel) was pleached, a pruning technique that allows privacy yet is more open than a solid hedge.
In the back, three different levels of terracing were constructed and sectioned into garden rooms, each with separate functions. Pathways with a circuitous flow connect the rooms, making the space feel larger. Pleached Olea europaea (olive trees) and Lagerstroemia ‘Natchez’ (crape myrtles) were planted between the rooms to help define the spaces. “We wanted to create distinct destinations, for each area to be an experience in and of itself,” says Eckley.
Because their tiny, 1930s Tudor-style house has limited living space, the garden has become an extension of the residence. Traditional hardscape with strong, clear lines and formal plantings complement the home’s exterior style.
Materials, including rusted steel edging, light-colored gravel, and bluestone pavers, enliven the garden even on dreary winter days. “I wanted the garden to be attractive year-round, especially during the darkest time of year,” says Eckley. The spare winter landscape comes to life in spring with exuberant layered plantings selected for foliage, structure, and multi-season interest.
The garden was designed to stimulate all senses. A fountain adds the soothing sound of water, drowning out the noise of a nearby freeway. Scented plants such as gardenia provide sweet fragrance. Divergent textures of hardscape, fabric, and foliage are interesting to the touch. Visually pleasing vignettes are discovered around every corner. And the potager—planted with herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, and greens—adds fresh taste to light summertime meals.
The finished landscape offers inspiration and spurs new ideas for Eckley’s clients. He shares this advice: “Even if your outdoor space seems overwhelming, pick just one thing that you most want to change. Something as simple as an antique urn or a piece of furniture draw you in and give you something to love and be proud of.”
For Eckley and Fitzpatrick, their garden is now an integral part of their home; a cherished sanctuary to be enjoyed in all seasons.