A Word About Landscape Architecture and Garden Design

Posts tagged ‘Seattle landscape architecture’

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb’s Mercer Island Garden Featured in Issue #22 of “Gray” Magazine

Designed by SHKS Architects, the Yoga Studio at Brooks Kolb’s Mercer Island Garden was featured in “Gray” Magazine. Here’s a link: http://issuu.com/graymag/docs/gray_n0._22_jj15/93?e=3579295/13295684

Brooks designed a garden of native and ornamental ferns around the Yoga Studio, with nurse logs on the forest floor. The building appears to float above the ground. Here’s a photograph of the landscape as viewed from the studio, taken by Ben Benschneider of the Seattle Times, which originally appeared in “Pacific NW” Magazine.

The metal sculpture in the background is by celebrated Portland artist Lee Kelly.



Gabion Walls in Landscape Construction


Little used in the Pacific Northwest except for highway projects, a terrific landscape construction device called a gabion wall is used to great effect in gardens and parks in Europe.  Gabion walls can either be free-standing space dividers or they can retain steep slopes.  The concept is simple:  rather than using heavy, giant boulders to retain soil, you make a metal wire cage and fill it with much smaller rocks.  The inert mass of the caged rocks holds the slopes in place.

For an enterprising client in Bellingham, Washington who had admired gabion walls when she lived for several years in Germany, Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb designed the three-tiered wall system pictured below at the client’s cottage overlooking Bellingham Bay.

Although gabions are usually filled with any commonly available rock, Ocean Pearl stone from Marenakos Rock Center was selected to line the top and front of the cages, while basalt rock filled the invisible backs.  The blue-gray color of the Ocean Pearl stone harmonizes with a similar retaining wall in the back garden.  The planting terraces behind the gabions were backfilled with drain rock and a top layer of organic soil to provide an extensive rooting zone for a diversity of shrubs and ground covers.  When finished, the end result will be an elegant terraced slope unlike any landscape in the neighborhood.  Rock construction was by Russ Beardsley (see related blog article), and the custom fence was built by Tony Keslau to a design by Brooks Kolb.


Gabion Walls in Progress, March, 2013

planting 9-20-13

Planting Nearly Finished, September, 2013

Brooks Kolb Landscape Featured in “Coastal Living” Magazine

Brooks Kolb’s landscape design for a weekend getaway home on Hood Canal is featured in the October, 2013 issue of “Coastal Living” Magazine.
The on-line story, titled “A Quaint Retreat,”  displays only this dining room image looking out to the canal and the Olympic Mountains beyond, but the print version includes several exterior shots showcasing my landscape design.  Titled “Paradise Found,” the print version summarizes the project in a subtitle, explaining  that  “The serene, blissful setting of a waterfront Holly, Washington abode brings back happy memories of a homeowner’s childhood on the coast.”
This unique garden in the village of Holly, Washington features not only a beach and an upland forest lining a long driveway, but also a small wetland and an active salmon stream.  Restoration of the salmon stream was a key part of the project, involving both re-sculpting the creek banks and islands and clearing a major culvert under the Seabeck-Holly Road, adjacent to the property.   After the restoration was completed, salmon returned to the creek in droves.
The project team included Andrew Borges, architect; Tom and Kathy Smayda, hydraulic engineers and wetland biologists; and Robin Richie, landscape contractor.  The interiors are by Michelle Burgess.   Photograph by John Ellis.


Brooks Kolb’s Sustainable Landscapes Highlighted in Alaska Airlines Magazine

In the July 13 issue of Alaska Airlines Magazine entitled “Home Green Home:  the benefits of sustainable living,” Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb contributed his thoughts on “gardening with a sustainable thumb.”  Accompanied by a photograph of Brooks Kolb’s Laurelhurst Hillside Garden, the article summarizes some of the leading principles of energy conservation in residential architectural design as well as landscape design.

Brooks was quoted saying, “There’s always a trade-off or conflict between the goal to be sustainable and the goal to meet your dream of what you want your landscape to be.”  Actually, there doesn’t need to be a conflict.  Often it’s a matter of communicating to a client how their dream landscape can be simultaneously designed to be sustainable.  For example, if someone has their heart set on a stone path and steps and they’ve found a beautiful Chinese granite, it could be a matter of showing them how a locally sourced stone can be just as beautiful.  The energy saved by eliminating the need for shipping from halfway around the world can be substantial.

As writer Lyna Bort Caruso summarized it, Brooks’ “design philosophy is to support what clients request, but to also nudge them in a greener direction that can help reduce watering and gardening bills, too.  This may include using local materials wherever practical; reducing the size of lawns and leaving grass cuttings behind to serve as a natural fertilizer; installing a rain garden, which allows rainwater to collect and channel off into yards; and avoiding pesticides and herbicides to protect the groundwater from pollutants.”

Here’s a link to the full article:  http://www.journalgraphicsdigitalpublications.com/epubs/PARADIGM%20COMMUNICATIONS%20GROUP/ParadigmAlaskaAirlinesJuly2013/#?page=86


Brooks Kolb’s Laurelhurst Hillside Garden, photograph published in Alaska Airlines Magazine

Brooks Kolb Mercer Island Garden Featured in “Pacific NW” Magazine

“Where Trees Rule – With conifers keeping the spirit alive, a property is born again.”  So read the title of Valerie Easton’s article in the June 9, 2013 edition of the Seattle Times’ “Pacific NW” magazine, when Seattle Landscape Architect and garden designer Brooks Kolb was featured for the large garden he recently designed on Mercer Island.  This project was a terrific opportunity for Kolb, not only because of the beautiful forested site, but because of the client’s passion for preserving and enhancing it.

Throughout the three and one-half year design and construction process, the clients expressed an uncommon ability to make good decisions, expressing their sensitivity to the site.  The design theme for the interiors, designed by Kelly Wearstler, was “Hollywood Glamour,” so the landscape needed to offer a calm counterpoint to the rich fabrics, textures and materials inside the house.  Given its 2 acre site, the landscape is actually a collection of several contrasting garden spaces, each with its own genius of place:  a sweeping lawn and entry garden; a pool terrace; a tennis court surrounded by tall Timber Bamboo; a native woodland garden of ferns and hostas surrounding the Yoga Studio (an independent structure); and a native garden on the steep banks of a ravine.

Perhaps the most special aspect of the garden is a bluestone terrace extending out into the lawn opposite the bedroom wing of the house, in line with Oregon sculptor Lee Kelly’s stainless steel sculpture and fountain, which punctuates the woodland edge opposite the lawn.  For this symmetrical and axial terrace, Brooks Kolb tagged a giant Japanese Maple at Big Trees Nursery, which was installed on the west side of the terrace to match an existing mature Maple on the east side.

The driveway, with its subtle, semi-circular bulge for parking and passing, was paved with porphyry cobbles from Argentina.  Over time, when the Japanese Hornbeam trees (also from Big Trees) that flank the driveway grow larger, they will form a shady tunnel canopy, separating the sunny entry from the equally sunny parking court beyond.

Here’s a link to the article:  http://seattletimes.com/html/pacificnw/2021115568_pacificpnwl09.html

Architecture by SHKS Architects; Construction by Roberts Wygal and In Harmony; Gardening and Landscape Maintenance by Zook and Oleson.


Photograph by Benjaim Benschneider

Brooks Kolb’s “Atomic Ranch House” Garden Design featured in “Pacific NW” Magazine

A photograph of  Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb’s garden design was included in a “Northwest Living” story in the March 3, 2012 Seattle Times “Pacific NW” Magazine.  Bearing the expressive title, “Big Blast from the Atomic Ranch Past,”  Becky Teagarden’s article describes the creative and meticulous way in which Sabrina Libertty restored her West Seattle mid-century modern home with exuberant furnishings, art and industrial design from the period.  Brooks’ job as landscape architect was to fulfill Sabrina’s dream of a mid-century modern garden such as one would expect to find in Palm Springs.  It didn’t hurt that a huge cache of red lava rock gravel covered most of the side yard, and we recycled it as pebble banding in new poured concrete pathways.

Built on several levels, the new garden is divided into two sub-spaces, one for the primary use of the owners, plus a smaller outdoor terrace and deck for their vacation rental guests in “Suite Shagalicious,” downstairs below the main living space.  Horizontally clad fences were designed to harmonize with the existing railing on an upper deck.  The owner’s garden features a paved cove with a portable fire feature.  An invisible turf paving system called “Geoblock” was used to create an occasional parking space.

Here’s a link to the article and Ben Benschneider’s photograph of the architecture and landscape:


Meanwhile, here’s a photograph taken toward the end of the contsruction:


Laurelhurst Hillside Garden in “Pacific NW” Magazine

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb’s Laurelhurst Hillside Garden was featured in the January 27, 2013 issue of the Seattle Times’ “Pacific NW” magazine. “Growing Up Gracefully: Gentle Curves and Masses of Plants Keep a Garden Looking Good” was the way Times writer Valerie Easton titled the piece.

Quoting from Valerie Easton’s article,

“A great view is about all Kevin and Jean Kelly’s Laurelhurst garden had going for it when landscape architect Brooks Kolb first saw it.  The topography was precipitous, the plantings worn, the steep steps down to the garden cracked and broken.  The handsome old house not only lacked connection to the garden, it turned its back to it…”

“Kolb started by designing an entry terrace to connect the old house to its new garden.  A geotech warned against filling in with heavy soil, so Kolb used foam to raise the grade about a foot.  Now the expanded porch steps graciously down to a terrace at lawn level.  Kolb replaced the chute-like stairs with a gentle S-curve of steps that wind their way through fragrant shrubbery….”

“How to create a garden that’s tactile, scented and seasonal, yhet so easy to care for? ‘The garden isn’t Noah’s ark, there aren’t just two of anything,’ says Kolb of his strategy of massing grasses, prennials and small shrubs…”

“Both Kelly and Kolb emphasize the importance of teamwork in the garden’s success.  Kelly had a vision, Kolb realized it, and gardener Eileen O’Leary stepped in to maintain the place. ‘Gardens evolve,’ says Kolb, who includes a yearly post-evaluation with all his landscapes.”

Here’s a link to the full article: http://seattletimes.com/html/pacificnw/2020148828_pacificpnwl27.html.

The project team included Dochnahl Construction (concrete and foam work); Gardenstone Masonry (Wilkeson sandstone masonry); Clayton E. Morgan Landscaping (softscape.)

Kelly July 2011 035

The S-curve sandstone stair from below


“Before” picture