Garden Bliss on a Sloping Backyard

When I think of a typical sloping suburban backyard, I see a patchy incline of unhappy lawn, maybe with the beginnings of an erosion gully. And that’s pretty much what greeted garden designer Barbara Katz the first time she saw what is now her back garden. Happily, she has transformed that barren patch into a remarkably ebullient garden.

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Which is not to say that her front garden isn’t also worth seeing. Here a wide planting of perennials, grasses, and small shrubs surrounds a circular lawn. I was very taken with the Agastache cultivar growing here – compact, upright, and floriferous. I was told the name, but I’ve forgotten it. Also, the planting along the street is wisely kept to a modest height. I always mean to do the same, and yet I always give in to the temptation to include taller plants.

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This is Barbara Katz welcoming the Garden Bloggers Fling Flingers to her suburban Maryland home near Washington, DC. You can see she is a friendly person.

Her driveway is packed with plants destined for a client’s garden. Barbara’s garden design business is called London Landscapes.

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While the front garden is very nice, it’s the back garden that really took my breath away. I’m a guy who wants to see masses of flowers in a garden; foliage doesn’t normally excite me. But I thought the mix of colors and textures above, particularly the shrubs and trees, was an absolute joy. Water running down the artfully placed stones of an artificial stream added a calming element.

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Photos and blueprints documenting the transformation of this space were displayed nearby. This garden originally belonged to a client, but Barbara purchased the place when the client moved. In this serendipitous manner she came to possess a garden in which she had poured a great deal of passion and creativity. (And since  everything was done for a client, she cannot accuse herself of spending too much money.)

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The water feature starts with a small lower pond. Nearby is a circular stone patio.

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I loved the way plants were mixed in with the stones of the water feature. The plants’ seem to be growing where nature intended, though their placement must have been done with great care.

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Alongside the stream, wide stone steps ascend the slope.

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They lead to a circular lawn, surrounded by lush plantings, that echoes the shape of the patio below.

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There is a small upper pond with water lilies not quite ready to bloom on the day we were there.

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Above the lawn is a wooden gazebo, from which you can gaze down the slope towards the lower part of the garden.

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I really like this combination of ‘Klaus Jelitto’ Stokes Aster (Stokesia laevis) and what I guess is Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica).

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At the top of the slope a mysterious path leads into the greenery.

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There’s a secluded niche with a bench, upon which is the publisher of Garden Design Magazine, Jim Peterson. Hi, Jim!

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Many thanks to Barbara Katz for welcoming us to her incredible garden.

That’s all for now.

36 Comments on “Garden Bliss on a Sloping Backyard

  1. I can see you are slowly, slowly being converted to foliage, texture and form Jason! I have to give a presentation about dealing with difficult sites would you mind if I used a couple of these images; I think the students would find it very interesting.

  2. I can send you my email address so you could send full size images. Thank you if you feel you are able to help, but don’t worry if you can’t.

    • Yes, we’d be glad to, just email Jason. I wish I had taken a photo of the “before” pictures, which were in an album. This was an unbelievably ordinary, annoyingly sloped space, before it was transformed. Barbara Katz had a real vision.

  3. That garden was amazing – I loved everything about it! I think this was the one with the before and after photos, right? Love seeing that and I do try very hard to remember to do that in my own garden but sometimes my before shots end up being the “half way through” shots as I simply forget.

  4. I’m absolutely in love with that yard! Particularly because it highlights what you can accomplish with shrubs, foliage, and texture. For me, perennials are used just to enhance the rest of the plantings.

  5. Nice remembering Barbara’s garden through your eyes and Judy’s pictures. I took very few photos here because it was so serene I just wanted to soak it in.

  6. Wow, that’s really impressive! The stonework reminds me of some of the gardens we saw in Toronto. It seems like a “comfortable” garden–a place where one could find peace and calm while reading a book or playing with plants and digging one’s hands in the dirt.

  7. I love the water features and the surrounding plants….this garden is all that I envy and will never have!

  8. It’s an awesome garden, Jason! I see you have had a nice visit there and thank you for sharing! I liked the round lawn very much!

    • That’s a good question. The owners are pretty busy people, and I don’t think they have a gardener. I wonder how much maintenance that water feature needs.

  9. Hello Jason, that’s an incredible sloping garden, I love the way the waterfall curves and cascades down. The slope is made into a real feature, it’s simply stunning!

  10. Beautiful… both front and back!
    I’m feeling a little bit of design envy, she really has a talent to putting it all together.

  11. I have no doubt this garden would take a persons breath away:-) A beautifully landscaped and well-thought out garden! I would say it is an good example of living art:-)

  12. This is one gorgeous garden. Wow. Everything’s so lush. This is what I want for my garden.

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