While our Salish Sea coastline gets a lot of deserved attention here, our freshwater lakes are the jewels of Bellingham’s interior. Not only can the views be just as pretty, but playing in the water—warmer than the year-round frigidity of Bellingham Bay—is one of the best things about living lakeside when the weather heats up.

This Lake Samish garden remodel, on the heels of a home upgrade, not only improved the space aesthetically, but worked to comply with challenging shoreline regulations to be sure the fixes were environmentally sound.

Clients sought a garden with efficient water requirements that would be easy to maintain. They wanted to preserve lake and shore views and install or keep plantings that promised year-round beauty. They also wanted to make it easy for water-playing adults and children to safely and easily navigate steep terrain up to the house.

They hired landscape architect Molly Maguire in the project’s early stages to help the design team with permitting the renovation for shoreline compliance. That meant careful selection and placement of plants and exterior structures, like a raised deck and step system to comply with requirements forbidding a new impervious surface on the lot.

The deck and steps’ steel frame, similar to the steel opengrate system in the home remodel’s second-floor deck, allows rainwater through to the soil below. Concrete pavers, also permeable, were installed atop the steel decking. Rainwater runs through and is filtered through a rock layer under previous pavers on the ground-floor deck. The same at-grade system was used in the front yard’s segmented walkway that is bound by steel edging.

As for the lake, native mitigation plantings were picked to complement a mix of colorful shrubs, grasses and perennials used throughout the garden. All plants were chosen to create beneficial habitats for birds, insects, amphibians and fish as well as for providing year-round color.

The garden has matured well. Today, drifts of ornamentalbunch grasses are interspersed with Rugosa roses, Panicle hydrangeas and “Aztec Pearl” Mexican Orange Blossom shrubs.

Blanketing the beds in the warm months and providing color year-round: the vibrant Purple Coneflower, rockroses, and Hummingbird Mint. Among the native plants are hardtack, red-flowering currant, Pacific Wax Myrtle, big-leaf lupine and Western Sword Fern. Shore pine, in strategic spots, helps meet shoreline requirements as well as create a soft evergreen screening on property edges. They will mature to a size that fits with the house and garden.

Homeowners own a metal-fabricating business, providing a beautifully woven steel fence of low-maintenance, powdercoated brown to give the garden an elegant backdrop.

Landscape Architect Molly Maguire Landscape Architecture

Building Architect Haven Design Workshop

Landscape Contractor Geoscapes

Building Contractor Glen Cribbs Construction


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"All plants were chosen to create beneficial habitats for birds, insects, amphibians and fish as well as for providing year-round color. "