Transformative Garden in North Carolina

We’re visiting with Jay Sifford today. We’ve visited his personal gardens in North Carolina before (Summer in Jay’s Garden) but today he’s sharing a garden he created for one of his garden design clients:

I have been working with this client for over four years. She came to me wanting a contemporary garden with an Asian feel, something that would complement her contemporary home. Phase 1 is shown here. It consists of a front yard garden, carved into a hillside in full sun. She wanted to have a garden near the street, a place where she could sit in the evenings with a glass of Plonk and greet neighbors as they walked by. The garden is full of color and texture, functioning as an exuberant and immersive platform upon which to live out the good life.

Highlights include a seating area with stone seating wall, stone steps that are interplanted to soften the hardscape, and an Asian-inspired dry creek bed that morphs into a real waterfall that empties into a small pond. “Magical” is the most common adjective we hear used to describe this special garden.

A staggered installation of long stone steps was necessary. They are interplanted with low spreading and mounding plants to soften the look and to provide a cohesive colorful and textural garden. The street-side area is anchored by a contorted filbert (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’, Zone 4 – 8)

A closeup of one area shows ‘Golden Pacific’ shore juniper (Juniperus conferta ‘Golden Pacific’, Zone 6 – 9), sapphire dune lyme grass (Leymus arenarius ‘Sapphire Dune’, Zone 3 – 10), ‘Orange Rocket’ barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’, Zone 4 – 8), Procumbens nana juniper (Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’, Zone 4 – 9), and a thunderhead pine (Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’, Zone 5 – 8).

Vertical stone pillars play nicely with the vertical path lights to create an installation that pulls elements from the home’s architecture down into the garden, particularly the porch columns.

I love to plant Iris ensata ‘Variegata’ (Zone 4 – 9). I plant it for the foliage, not the blooms. Spiky is a “happy shape” that juxtaposes mounding and horizontally growing plants for an interesting composition.

Here is a wider view of the main portion of the front garden that shows the context. Using the large rectangular stone steppers did not visually cut the yard in half like a solid sidewalk would have done.

One of the most fascinating features of the garden is the Asian-inspired dry creek bed that turns into a running waterfall. The stones, meticulously stacked on edge, create the illusion of cascading flowing water.

This photo shows the transition point between dry creek bed and “wet waterfall”. The engineering was a bit tricky but works well.
The two foot high waterfall plunges into a small but deep pond. This creates some wonderful ambient noise that adds to the tranquil feeling of the garden, even though it was exposed to the street.

Here is a glimpse of phase 2 in the backyard. The client asked for a miniature mountain range that included a waterfall. I was a bit skeptical as I thought to myself: “This could either go really right or really wrong”. Fortunately, it went “really right”. The mountains are planted in a way that mimics green masses of trees, with ‘Sapphire Rug’ juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘sapphire Rug’, Zone 6 – 7) to pick up the sapphire color of the sapphire Ridge Mountains and dwarf mondo (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nanus’, Zone 6 – 11), along with black scallop ajuga (Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’, Zone 3 – 10) to simulate shadows on the mountain side. Eventually this area will host a blackened cedar Japanese pavilion that will be cantilevered out over the large U-shaped pond.

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