With the beautiful Pacific Northwest only a short drive away, and the Midwest to the south, homes located in the Northwestern region of the U.S. have a wonderful location advantage over homes located in other regions. The weather is mixed, yet typically mild, so you don’t have to deal with too many extremes.
Plus, there are so many amazing native plant species and other natural features that make this area of the world a real joy to do landscaping in. Everyone knows if you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’ll have a great time in the Northwest, but many yards and estates lose some of the area’s inherent charm by over-commercializing the exterior of their homes.
With that said, here are some things you can do to compliment the natural beauty of the Northwest with architectural landscaping:
1. Do a Tour of Properties in the Area
If you’re new to landscaping in the Northwest, then all you really need to do to become familiar with the local landscaping is take a tour of an upscale neighborhood and assess the features and plant types being used. You could have a local agent take you on a guided tour to skip to the highlights of the area.
You might start by contacting a real estate agent who specializes in the neighborhood you’re going to be landscaping in. For example, if you were about to do a project in Meridian, Idaho, then you might take a tour from a Meridian Idaho real estate agent.
2. Use Pine and Sage Liberally
One thing you’ll notice is that there are lots of pine trees and sage bushes in the Northwest. There’s no need to go for the standout effect and eliminate these from the yard completely because most people feel that these plant varieties add most of the signature look and character of the region.
They also have a very intriguing smell that creates a specific mood. The cool part is that because these plants are so widespread and often found on the property, it won’t cost a lot of money or effort to incorporate this proven component in your design.
3. Go for Streamlined Bush Shaping
In some places, the sharp-cornered hedges are the trend, but in the Northwest, most bushes are trimmed to have smooth contours. Keep that in mind when trimming and shaping bushes and hedges. Exotic bush shapes are less common but definitely aren’t frowned upon in any scenario.
Precision bush shaping is a good skill to have in an area where bushes undoubtedly will need trimming multiple times per year. The springtime is an especially busy time for a landscaping business that specializes in bush shaping.
4. Highlight and Accentuate a Walkway
Walkways are important in the Northwest because you tend to run into lots of pine cones, rocks, prickly spurs, and other obstructions scattered along the ground. A walkway gives the home’s inhabitants and guests a clear and safe path to the house, so surrounding it with stunning landscaping should be a primary focus during any project.
If the house doesn’t yet have a walkway, you might want to start by adding one, either via the addition of aligned stepping stones, paving a walkway with concrete, or one of the many other methods of walkway building.
5. Include a Gazebo or Patio of Some Sort
As mentioned earlier, people love being outside in the Northwest, and why wouldn’t you with all that natural beauty to enjoy? Adding a gazebo is one of the best structural additions you can add to an estate of any size, so long as the yard is large enough to accommodate it.
A gazebo can be the site of cookouts and gatherings for many years to come while also serving as the focal piece in your architectural landscaping design. In this department, you can opt for a predesigned building or construct a kit gazebo or gathering area while also incorporating low-cost earthen materials like adobe.
6. Fountains and Streams are a Plus
Days can get very hot in the spring and summer, so having running water around is psychologically refreshing and relaxing. Fountains also encourage wildlife like birds to visit the yard, bringing a bit of birdwatching fun with them. Even if the home already has a pool, just having some extra water to look at and interact with can be a perk during those unbearably hot days.
If a garden or flowerbed is a central component in the design, then the fountain and stream setup can serve the extra purpose of bringing irrigation to the plants. You could even arrange the waterways into an aquaponic system using a fish pond to collect nutrients from the fish emulsion and recycle it through the system as fertilizer for the plants. Many people are interested in permaculture in the Northwest, so this is always a cool add-on to discuss and throw in.
7. Build Stone Walls and Waterfalls
There are always huge stones and boulders to be found scattered throughout the Northwest, and these are low-cost materials to use in the construction of stone walls or waterfalls. These are easy to build with once you understand the principles involved in stacking rocks, but it’s important to get some good practice before building a stone wall or structure on a client’s project, as they can be a liability if the rocks aren’t secured properly.
Stay Balanced Towards the Desired Approach
Regardless of whether you choose not to follow any of the tips given above, it’s always best to stay attentive to what the client wants first and foremost. You can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to a home just because it’s located in a certain area.
If the client wants sharp edges on those bushes, then it’s best just to heed their recommendation and give them exactly what they want, even if all of their neighbors have smoothly shaped hedges. At the same time, use your discretion to incorporate things that you know in your professional opinion would add charm and wow factor to the finished design without violating client specifications.