Perched on a corner in Fairfield, just two blocks from the Pacific Ocean, Pat Ebbel’s urban retreat is sitting pretty a few feet above the sidewalk. It is obvious that this was no do-it-yourself project but a carefully engineered landscape design with striking results. Equal parts science as it is art, the intricacies of landscape design are many: site analysis, conceptual design, construction planning, plant knowledge, and project management. Landscaping seemed a daunting task for Ebbels who had recently completed an exterior renovation on her bungalow. However, overgrown with demanding plants and trees, Ebbel’s yard was mostly unused and becoming a burden. Despite the old adage to attain three quotes before making any major home renovation decision, Ebbel’s trusted her gut and hired Duane Ensing after their initial meeting. “He listened well and I felt comfortable immediately. I just knew it was the right fit,” smiles Ebbels.
Sharing the University of Victoria as their alma mater, Ensing and Ebbels are both graduates of the Fine Arts Department. The daughter of an architect, Ebbels has a keen appreciation for function and design and was excited to work with a professional. Her vision involved designing a space she could enjoy year-round and was easy to maintain. Most importantly, she needed a green space for Molly, her dog, and a casual retreat to enjoy time with friends. After their first meeting, Ebbels could sense immediately how Ensing’s artistic sensibility informed his designs. Treating the landscape as a blank canvas, Ensing’s initial concept drawing included contemporary plantings, architectural screening, and a design that encouraged both privacy for relaxation and a place for social gatherings.
As an ex-flat lander, Ebbels has embraced the west coast and designed her own rain chain as a functional alternative to traditional, closed gutter downspouts. The rain chain guides water visibly down the chain adding interest to Ebbel’s threshold. Skillfully managing scale and rhythm, Ensingblended a variety of shapes, colours, and plant sizes to repeat throughout the landscape. “It is certainly a work of art,” muses Ebbels. Patio stone pavers inside the lawn and river rock highlights work together to link spaces and points of interest emerge as you travel through the landscape.
Contemporary plantings define spaces and create character using Red and Bronze Flax, Yew hedging, Burgundy Berberis, Oriental grasses, Lavender, Rudbeckias, Echinacea, Russian Sage, and Black Mondo grass. Highlights in the landscape include Japanese Maple trees, Red Crimson Maple trees, and architectural screening. “At one point I thought I could do all the planting myself but planting is hard work and plants are expensive, better to trust a professional to complete the entire project,” laughs Ebbels.
With very little privacy and an awkward layout, designing a corner lot has it’s unique challenges. To create private areas, without sacrificing Ebbel’s view or her connection to her neighbours, Ensing built staggered, horizontal cedar screening as a visual buffer between the house and the street. Even on such a small, highly visible site, they were able to create both quiet spaces for relaxing and dynamic areas for socializing. Ground coverage plants are set to cascade over the elevated concrete wall to create a green boundary around the property.
“I just love being in my new space and I definitely spend more time outdoors now. I was able to entertain outside this summer which was so exciting. Even Molly, my dog, is comfortable enough to go outside by herself now.
Working with a landscape designer was certainly money well-spent. One of the things I liked most about Duane was that he listened well and was open to my suggestions and changes. It is an important investment so I encourage people to look for someone you feel comfortable with and is the right fit. The plants that were planted in September, 2013, have grown in beautifully; I’m looking forward to watching the evolution of my garden.”