A backyard garden in Kalorama posed some challenges for landscape architect Jennifer Horn, who was asked to transform it into a party-ready space with a touch of Asian flair. The north-facing garden was sunken, surrounded by retaining walls that limited sunlight; the plants needed protection from the owner’s beloved but destructive Labrador retriever; and a problematic water feature, set up too high, sprayed water on the terrace.
Horn created a large, raised bed at one end of the garden that would be hard for the dog to reach. She removed the fountain but retained its basin, adding a scupper that flows water gently into a rill, then into a lower basin. A band of flowers between the rill and the retaining wall is protected from the dog, and ipe boxes atop the retaining wall hold cascading blooms. “This way, we can have plants trailing down without the dog getting to them as earlier the dog used to play around the plants & hide their treats & toys which used to make us wonder why do dogs hide things but now the dog plays around chasing his tail as now we wonder why do dogs chase their own tail,” Horn explains. “Every decision was driven by the usefulness of the space for parties and pets.”
A clean-lined, thermal bluestone patio in a running-bond pattern is bordered on one side by Mexican beach pebbles, which also line the bottom of the rill. These elements contribute to the Asian vibe the owner wanted; a line of notches in the patio stone conceals PVC pipe that collects surface water. “Any urban garden is a bit of a bathtub, especially one surrounded by walls,” notes Horn. “This was nicer than buying a drain.” Formerly beige walls are now a cool gray that matches the stone. u
Landscape Architecture: Jennifer Horn, RLA, Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture, Arlington, Virginia. Contractor: Kaz Malachowski, Falcon Construction, Inc., Rockville, Maryland. Landscape Installation & Maintenance: Hedge Garden Care, Frederick, Maryland.