Private Gardens Design
Susan Harrison, owner of Private Gardens Design, is no stranger to awards. She won our own Best of the Northwest for Best Landscape Designer in 2015 and took home the silver from this year’s Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) International Design Competition. The silver-winning design is located on a one-acre lot in Anacortes that overlooks Similk Bay and Skagit Island to the southwest. Harrison’s clients tasked her with creating a contemporary garden with spaces for entertaining. The designer delivered.
Inspired by her clients’ “openminded desire to explore possibilities,” Harrison got to work creating separate, yet cohesive spaces. An entrance framed by a Ceanothus hedge welcomes guests while providing privacy in the secluded fireplace seating area. Underfoot, tiles of Pennsylvania blue stone add a simple elegance to the space. Ample seating around the fireplace balances an adjacent, more intimate seating area alongside a reflective pool.
There is a balance of straight and rounded edges in the garden: the curved metal fireplace alongside angular seating, a pair of rounded seats next to the straight-edged reflective pool, and squared-off concrete stairs with toe kicks curve gently down from the terrace to an infinity lawn and finally a natural meadow. The stairs tie all the separate spaces together. Harrison’s biggest challenge was keeping the flow of the design intact throughout the various spaces and elevation changes. By installing the sweeping staircases, she was able to help create flow and “an invitation to explore the various garden levels.”
Vegetation adds a softness to the design and Harrison carefully chose plants in the coastal plains family that would work double duty. Cotoneaster and oak-leaf hydrangea spill onto the concrete stairs, softening the stone’s edges. Taking special consideration for the space’s Similk Bay view, Harrison framed the water view with plants that are “designed to create a succession of color through the seasons.” In summertime, gardenias add color and intoxicating fragrance, then give way to achilleas, irises, and lavandulas in late summer and fall. Finally, in winter, Hamamelis will add subtle color. The view, best from inside the house, can be enjoyed year-round with an ever-changing palate of colors.
Harrison also wanted to create a sense of privacy in the fireplace seating area which has access from the house and driveway. In addition to the Ceanothus hedge, she used big, bold plants like Fatsia japonica, rodgersia, and acanthus to create a sort of living wall around the space.
Harrison’s careful choice and placement of stone and plants created a garden that is multifunctional with various nooks that can stand on their own, but still work cohesively in an overall design. Multi-season framing the natural views adds another level of attention to detail. This garden is truly a year-round refuge.