Earth, Water & FireModern Patio, San Luis Obispo
Landscape by Gardens by Gabriel; Fire Bowl and Water Feature by Wells Concrete Works; Radial bench by TM Lewis Construction
What Houzz contributors are saying:
Modern curves: Curved concrete-and-wood bench and a round concrete fire bowl.Conversely, go for all curves. For an equally contemporary look that feels a bit softer in the landscape, pair a roughly semicircular bench seat with a circular fire bowl. It’s tough to find premade outdoor furniture in curved shapes — if you love this look, it may be worth it to go for a custom-built bench. If you do splurge for custom, consider a design that relates not only to your fire pit but also to other hardscape materials in the backyard. For example, the designer of this custom curved bench in San Luis Obispo, California, lined the inside curve with wood, warming up the look of the concrete and tying it in with the red-brown floor detail.
Review the subcontractors. As a generalist, the landscape contractor relies on specialty artisans and workers to do custom work or build components with special materials and techniques. Along with knowing who will supervise the work, you will want to know who is responsible for specialty and artisan work, so that you can make sure those people are qualified. Ask for detailed information about the subcontractor’s qualifications, using similar questions to those you asked the landscape contractor. The contractor hires subcontractors directly and typically has a roster of skilled people for special work. Common subcontracted work includes irrigation (some states require a specific irrigation license), pool installation, pond installation, specialty work (with materials like stone, wood, metal and concrete) and artisan work with sculpture, mosaics or ornate custom fabrications.
A circular bubbler looks right at home in a bed that’s artfully curved and planted with textural grasses. For small enclosures designed for entertaining, a millstone fountain can set the stage for relaxed, intimate gatherings.
And now some of you are thinking, "Hey, I don't have any acreage or a suburban lot, and all I want is a low-maintenance something on a problem area that gets lots of sun and dries out often." Maybe you can mass some sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) or prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis). Those are two of my favorite dry-loving prairie shortgrass plants. If you like taller grasses, think about some stands of bluestem (Andropogon spp) or Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) — you could even have the taller grasses in the back and the shorter ones up front to mimic a more traditional garden design. Toss in some coneflowers, blue sage or liatris (Liatris aspera) for a few pops of blooming color from early summer to midautumn, and you've started cooking up a prairie. If you have a shadier area, look into native sedges — they look like grasses but aren't as tall.
Let grasses dominate the ground plane. This garden uses Carex in a simplified mass to dominate the ground plane. Punctuations of agave add to the artful approach of this planting design. The millstone fountain, fire bowl and seat wall are great architectural features. I imagine this space is home to some great cocktail parties — I'm sure I'll be getting a call any day now. Those who are daring and welcome failure as an exciting opportunity to learn will have great success in the garden. No matter how much I have read about plants and design, nothing has come close to informing me more than trial, error and observation. So do something crazy — like plant a drift of some grasses I didn't even mention in this story — and revel in the excitement of the unknown.More: Let Nature Inspire Your Landscape: From Grasslands to Garden