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For the third year in a row one of our designs has been chosen to receive an award from an outdoor living magazine Hearth and Home. This year the winning design was for a Rustic Retreat with a French Provencal twist.

Last year, I met with a wonderful couple who had just purchased their second home in an exclusive waterfront neighborhood. They purchased the home and the adjoining vacant property next door as they needed a larger garden space. When I met with them in our initial consultation I quickly realized that their criteria was to have an informal garden, that reminds them of their home in the Austin area. They wanted seating areas, water sound that could act as a doggie pool, plenty of lawn space for the grand-kids and dog to run and play in, and additional parking for their guests.


Before: Vacant Lot

Before: Courtyard wall

Before: view of client’s side of home that bordered the empty property

I was excited about this challenge, though the vacant lot was an open field, the neighborhood has many rules and restrictions that I had to abide by. The house had an established garden that permitted no views to the new lot and as you can see from the above pictures, there was no doors leading to this side property from the house. So the challenge for me was to come up with a plan that unified the existing home with the new garden. My first design priority was to add access to this new large garden directly from this side of the house, by adding French doors to the back portion of the house, giving us access from the breakfast nook directly onto the garden and adding a lovely view from the interior. The second thing I wanted to do is remove the stucco wall that walled in the courtyard – giving us another entrance/exit while adding in more light to the interior of the home.

The next element in our design was to unify the existing back garden of the home with the new adjoining garden. Here, we removed the existing side fence and shrubs, removed the small existing patio, and added a larger travertine patio, which leads directly from their existing back door onto the new pergola. This gave the homeowners not only direct access but a larger patio by the back door to use as a dining area. Details make a difference – notice the beautiful glazed urns flanking the window, and the lovely Provencal style dining table!

The pergola which we positioned towards the back side of the property purposely to take advantage of the lake views, serves as a wonderful shaded gathering area – an outdoor living room, large enough for a seating area and a large dining table. Shutters were added to the pergola for additional privacy until the landscape matures. Centered in between the pergola columns I added a light aqua French Olive Jars, planted with Topiary Eugenia to tie in the pots together.

Centered on the pergola just outside the new French doors we positioned a large French Provencal fountain in the middle of a flagstone patio. Instead of grouting the slabs of flagstone we used Dwarf Mondo to add to the rustic charm. This additional patio will act as an overflow seating area during larger gatherings. The fountain adds a focal point, the sound of water and a cooling off spot for their beautiful Australian Labradoodle!

Large flagstone slabs set in the lawn lead from the flagstone patio to the new side doors and the new front gate, tying in all points of existing and entrance without compromising much of the lawn space needed for play.

The landscape was designed to be very informal, borders of Verbena, Iceplant , Stokesia and Lamb’s ear cascade over the flagstone walls. Behind them we used a combination of Foxtail Fern, Drift Rose and Agapanthus. Adding texture and a Hill Country element we introduced grasses such as the Pennisetum Princess Caroline and Gulf Coast Muhly. Since this vacant property was on a corner, we added larger shrubs to give us privacy such as Bottle Brush trees, Brodie Juniper and Ligustrum.

In the front section of this vacant property we added a parking area for guests, disguised as a courtyard with a hedge row of Japanese Yew. A wrought iron fence around the perimeter adds security and privacy, a gate from the front parking courtyard welcomes you to step inside the garden and view what lays beyond.

Parking Courtyard

We were very pleased with the transformation of this empty lot, and are honored that it was chosen to be featured in this magazine! As always, I hope I have inspired you to get creative, get out and enjoy the garden! Do you have any challenging areas in you garden? If you do, comment below!

Ciao Mardel