"The yard is small," my realtor had said with concern.
"Perfect," I had replied.
Now several years later, step through the simple cedar gate of my small ranch home near Boulder and the casual, woodland garden that immediately envelops you feels dense, layered, and larger than its actual size.
Inside the gate, pink roses climb the weathered cedar fence to the left, assisted by a metal trellis. A DIY potting bench tucks in the corner on the right, with my favorite Annabelle hydrangeas planted in multiples to overlap the bench and wrap the corner of the house. The Annabelles are now forming their flower heads; they suffered badly from a heavy and surprisingly late snowfall that hit the garden in late April.
Down the gently curving, mulched path is a textural mix of ornamental grass, large-leafed variegated hosta, peonies (now spent), and lilies that are getting ready to pop, all layered against a dwarf blue spruce, weeping Louisa crab, maple leaf viburnum, and a towering, long-needled evergreen. The mature evergreen is actually on my neighbor's property, but my little garden takes advantage of its shade, towering backdrop, and branches that sweep low over the fence into my garden space. This tree sometimes delights as a roosting spot for owls and my dogs love to gnaw its generous supply of pinecones.
The goal was a casual, layered garden in relatively deep beds surrounding a small patio space. With the benefit of mature trees from neighboring yards, my design could focus on the layers just below those trees -- ornamental trees like weeping crab and serviceberry, textural shrubs like maple leaf viburnum and Carol Mackie Daphne, some specimen roses, and a variety of my best-loved grasses and perennials. Blooms are limited to white and ranges of pinks and blues, but greatest attention by far is given to foliage texture and contrast.
Follow the mulched path, and you're soon on the four-foot-wide stone path that joins the house and patio. Designed and installed a few years ago by One Earth Landscape in Boulder, the patio is sited nearest the fence at the back of the small yard. In a genius design that never would have occurred to me, One Earth excavated the sloping yard back toward the house, laid the stone patio, and installed a retaining wall and steps. They created a destination that can be viewed from the house, a sense of seclusion when you're enjoying the patio, and a bit of drama with the steps and wall, which allows for extra seating, potted plants, and the romance that's possible when plants begin to drape over the stone ledge.
For contrasting foliage, the Carol Mackie Daphne and the dwarf evergreens get top props. This year potted plants have been incorporated into the garden's irrigation system and snugged onto the patio around the seating areas for a greater sense of seclusion. I've added dwarf Alberta spruce, a dwarf flowering crab, boxwood, and birchleaf spirea. Cayenne, basil, oregano, parsley, and mint grow in small terracotta pots all around the patio.
Morning and evening are the perfect times to enjoy this space, which is set up for lounging and casual meals. The eastern sun rises above the towering pine, casting cool shadows and dappled sunlight over the entire patio and garden. By evening, the sun's westward shift casts a long shadow from the house to cool this space after a hot summer day in Colorado. My favorite time, by far, is enjoying morning coffee while watching and listening to all the birds and pollinators who visit the garden for its blossoms, bird bath and feeders, dried summer seeds, and fall fruits.
Last fall, we installed this vintage French lamp (a One Kings Lane find) after DIY'ing the cedar post. It is MAGICAL.
Edgar the Raven has been keeping watchful, beedy eyes on the birds, bees, butterflies, and dogs since a trip to Mesa Verde National Park. Sculpted by an artist in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, he sits atop a rusted metal bistro table base surrounded by perennial salvia and Siberian iris.
All styling and photography by Urban Cottage Style, unless otherwise noted.