As a plant lover, I know how easily I get caught up in trees and shrubs and flowers. A beautiful landscape is much more than plants, though. It is dependent upon the lines and curves that lead your eye to emphasize just the right points and upon the structure that forms and frames it.
The symmetric circles of Lawrence residents Richard and Amy Wendt’s flagstone patio, water feature and outdoor fireplace offer an outstanding example of curves and hardscape that make the landscape greater.
The Wendts added the outdoor entertaining area to their landscape as a replacement to the kids’ play area. They knew that redoing the area was about more than just planting a few things. To get the right look, they decided to hire local landscape architect Reed Dillon.
Amy says they really had no doubt about who to hire. “He did all the work on the landscape out front, and people always stop to ask about it.”
For their back yard, though, the Wendts wanted something a little different than the formal landscape out front. They wanted a space to spend time together as a family and to entertain. Amy had seen outdoor fireplaces a few times before and really wanted one.
“This area also had a bit of drainage problem,” Amy says, “so we wanted to resolve that and have a nice space. We definitely enjoy being outdoors.”
Dillon, of Reed Dillon and Associates, says he wanted to create a look that was formal but still comfortable. He notes that the Wendts offered a lot of freedom to his design work, making the project easier.
“It’s really very symmetrical,” Dillon says.
We both know that symmetry typically gives a formal feel to the outdoor space around it, but Dillon has managed to keep it comfortable and welcoming. Part of the feel he attributes to the round shape of the patio and to the circles that intertwine it.
The water feature was Dillon’s idea and is now Amy’s favorite part of the landscape. Dillon used a naturally occurring rock basin found in New Mexico. Water gurgles over the sides of the rock basin, drowning out the noise of the outside world.
“I love the sound, the peacefulness of it. I’ve been known to fall asleep out here,” Amy says.
The basin is also easier to take care of than a typical landscape pond.
Moss rock, with colors that complement both the rock basin and the flagstone, surrounds the water feature. The fireplace is hand-constructed of another similar and also complementary stone. The retaining wall behind the area is native Kansas limestone.
Dillon’s plant choices are also top notch, with a variety of Japanese maple called Full Moon to soften the center of one of the circles.
“In the fall, it turns a brilliant orange,” he says. The tree will also stay in scale with the rest of the landscape — it will only be about 15 feet tall at maturity.”
Azaleas, rhododendrons and hydrangeas fill much of the surrounding landscape. Dillon and Wendt note how important the site can be with these plants, but the Wendts’ yard provides a favorable environment.
“I like to use the Rosa Girard variety of azalea,” Dillon says. “I think it is more reliable than some of the others.”
Easier-to-grow but not widely planted sweetspire is tucked in with the more finicky plants, and a mixture of annuals and perennials provide color. One of my favorite trees, paperbark maple, finds a home in the protected corner near the retaining wall.
“This has really become a gathering place,” Amy adds. “In the fall and spring, the kids want to come out here, and they’re teenagers. We just really enjoy it.”