MID-CENTURY OASIS by McHale Landscape Design.
FAMILY AFFAIR by Surrounds, Inc. © Morgan Howarth
MODERN TWIST by Colao & Peter.
FRESH APPROACH by Fine Earth Landscape. © Hilary Schwab
BACKYARD DELIGHT by Kane Landscapes, Inc. © Julie Kane
WEEKEND ESCAPE by Walnut Hill Landscape Company.
COURTYARD OASIS by Wheat's Landscape. © George E. Brown
GARDEN SPOT by Botanical Decorators.
POOL PARTY by State of the Art Landscape. © Bob Narod
FAMILY AFFAIR by Surrounds, Inc. © Morgan Howarth
MODERN TWIST by Colao & Peter.
FRESH APPROACH by Fine Earth Landscape. © Hilary Schwab
BACKYARD DELIGHT by Kane Landscapes, Inc. © Julie Kane
WEEKEND ESCAPE by Walnut Hill Landscape Company.
COURTYARD OASIS by Wheat's Landscape. © George E. Brown
GARDEN SPOT by Botanical Decorators.
POOL PARTY by State of the Art Landscape. © Bob Narod

Smooth Transition

Before-and-after projects highlight myriad ways in which an uninspired backyard can become an outdoor wonderland

  • BEFORE

MID-CENTURY OASIS The owners of a Frank Lloyd Wright-style house wanted their small Vienna, Virginia, backyard to reflect their home’s special appeal. They asked McHale Landscape Design to create a focal point on the mundane lot: a diminutive pool and water wall that would complement the architecture.

“We crafted Pennsylvania flagstone ledgestone walls to frame the pool,” recounts Steven McHale, who collaborated with colleague Phil Kelly on the project. “Each stone was hand-cut on site.” Gauged, premium-blue flagstone was used for the pool coping and wall caps, which boast rock-face, hand-chiseled edging. A sun shelf in the pool offers a spot for seating, while pre-cast limestone planters add interest. Plantings include Sweetbay magnolia, nepeta, daylily, Japanese anemone, heuchera and mazus.


  • BEFORE

FAMILY AFFAIR A McLean couple enlisted Surrounds, Inc., to design a functional backyard featuring a pool, patio and lawn where their kids could play. “The original space was unusable,” relates landscape architect Chad Talton, who headed the project. “There was little space that was flat enough for children’s activities.”

Fortunately, excavating for the pool leveled the ground around it. Positioning the pool and patio to one side helped maintain the expansive lawn for the kids while creating easy access to the entertainment areas from the house. The bluestone patio with brick inlay beckons guests, who congregate by the stone fireplace and built-in grill; banks of shrubs and perennials soften the hardscape. The entry gate is made of stone and cedar. Photography: Morgan Howarth


  • BEFORE

MODERN TWIST Clients with a waterfront lot in Alexandria hired Colao & Peter to transform their property, where Potomac River setbacks prevented them from replacing their dated pool and hardscape. “The space was a concrete jungle with little interest,” recalls principal J.R. Peter. “They wanted a modern, harmonious environment with visual impact.” Also on order: a water feature, pergola, retaining walls, plantings, irrigation and lighting. Peter says that he decided “to embrace the natural surroundings with a modern twist.” Large-format Israeli limestone paves the pool surround and patio. A stone veneer and ipe accents connect the pergola with the house, and a radius stucco water wall enlivens the pool. Evergreens screen the yard and Japanese maples accent the pool scape.


  • BEFORE

FRESH APPROACH A couple with four children struggled with drainage problems on their Bethesda lot. They contacted Fine Earth Landscape to resolve these issues while improving the home’s street presence. “The house sits low with the front lawn sloping towards it,” recounts Fine Earth’s Judith M O Petersen. “Water ran to the front door, eroding the foundation.” Fine Earth created a new driveway to the side of the house that channels water to a rain garden in back. A low Carderock stone retaining wall in front directs water away from the foundation. A generous Pennsylvania bluestone walkway now leads to the front entry, which has been enhanced with a portico. Deer-resistant perennials and shrubs frame the lawn. Photography: Hilary Schwab


  • BEFORE

BACKYARD DELIGHT Clients with a newly built home in Leesburg, Virginia, turned to Kane Landscapes, Inc., to transform their empty, post-construction lot into a welcoming backyard complete with pool, spa, patio and gardens. “The property was just a poorly graded lawn,” explains principal Josh Kane, who provided a well-thought-out and comprehensive design that covered the homeowners’ wish list. Techo-Bloc pavers with masonry walls and steps clad the pool area and hot tub, with accents of bluestone in step and wall caps and pool coping. Broken-bluestone walkways are enhanced by shrubs, grasses, perennials and ground cover. Stands of trees provide screening and decoration. A waterfall creates a picturesque focal point, spilling over strategically stacked boulders. Photography: Julie Kane


  • BEFORE

WEEKEND ESCAPE Located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a vacation house overlooking the Wye River lured a couple based in McLean. After buying it, they contacted Walnut Hill Landscape Company to create an extensive outdoor entertainment area in back with a pool, patio and cabana that accommodates overnight guests. “We worked with architect F. Carl Schwartz on a cabana with a fireplace, open seating area and guest rooms above,” says Walnut Hill principal Michael Prokopchak. Full-color, natural-cleft Pennsylvania flagstone clads the patio and walkways, while mass plantings of shrubs, perennials and grasses provide year-round color and texture. Among the extras: In the pool, a solar shelf with an umbrella holder provides shade for swimmers.


  • BEFORE

COURTYARD OASIS An estate home in Potomac was calling for a front yard that would complement the grand style of the house. “The owners wanted a more formal look with multiple garden rooms,” explains Mark Finlayson of Wheat’s Landscape, hired to orchestrate the project. Working with some existing masonry and hardscape, he and his team designed a series of outdoor rooms—including a walled courtyard garden to one side of the front door. It boasts a stone archway, an ornamental iron door and a curved, precast-concrete garden bench. Tall shrubs line the walls and carefully manicured rows of boxwood frame neat sections of grass and clusters of drift roses; wide pebble pathways traverse the space. Photography: George E. Brown


  • BEFORE

GARDEN SPOT After the two-year renovation of a vintage bungalow on a corner lot in Alexandria, the property around it needed a complete overhaul. The owners asked Botanical Decorators to design a garden that would fit the character of the home. “They also wanted it to feel as if it had always been there,” says landscape designer Morgan Washburn, who conceived an intimate cottage garden with a loose and airy feel. The owners’ wish list included a flagstone patio; gas fire pit; Bocci court on the side lawn; new walkways; cedar fencing; and screening from the side street. Mature plantings such as magnolia and Green Giant arborvitae convey a sense of timelessness in the space.


  • BEFORE

POOL PARTY  The owners of a Vienna, Virginia, property tapped State of the Art Landscape to install a pool and hot tub and to replace a dated pavilion with a more functional one featuring a kitchen, fireplace and TV. However, “the yard was problematic, with slope and drainage issues,” remembers principal Greg Powell. “It hadn’t been utilized properly to support a pool.” State of the Art’s design addressed grading problems with a high retaining wall that terraced the backyard, doubling as a water feature at one end of the pool. A drainage system under the renovated deck, now partially screened, handles excess water. Travertine pavers banded by flagstone and thin-veneer stone walls are softened by perennials and shrubs. Photography: Bob Narod