Story: Diane Carroll |
When faced with the challenge of converting a driveway and carport area into an inviting courtyard, landscape designer Chris Olsen had a ready solution. “We used the transformative power of water,” he says, “to turn a space that was barren and hot into a place that’s enticing and cooling.”
His clients, Bill and Jane Hardin, envisioned a welcoming garden in place of the existing side drive along their Little Rock home, and Olsen obliged with a plan for a brick-lined patio featuring a raised pond and fountain. “Water subliminally softens a space, adding the element of sound, plus something to look at and touch,” he says. “I find that raised ponds are especially good for this, since you can sit on the edge and feel closer to the water.”
He began by adding brick retaining walls to form the pond and painting them to blend with the white exterior of the Hardin’s home. Antique brick was used for the courtyard flooring and semi-circular accent walls, one containing the pond’s water fountain and another defining the boundary of the garden. Within the pond, Olsen created two planting areas rimmed with bricks and created a channel where water flows between them. “We didn’t want a gushing waterfall, but the faint sound of water flowing into the pond,” he says. “With the brick walls as a backdrop, the sound ricochets around.”
Olsen filled the planting areas with a wide variety of water-tolerant plants, including canna lilies, oat grass and obedient plant, and then turned the main section of the pond into a habitat for koi and goldfish. “That made the pond into a destination, a place to come sit, feed the fish and watch them for awhile,” he adds.
Alongside the new courtyard, in an area where water drainage had long been an issue, Olsen added more water-loving plants and created a thriving bog garden. Since the property’s existing retaining walls held in moisture, he was able to fill the area with arrow arum, pickerelweed, variegated carex grass, sweet flag grass and other varieties common to waterside settings. “As the plants grew together, they created this lush garden,” says Olsen. “You’d never suspect that it had been a problem area.”
For a final burst of bright green color, he planted masses of horsetail reed underneath Crepe Myrtle trees that flank the Hardin’s house. “Including water plants in all the areas tied them together,” says Olsen. “They became a good solution for dealing with the site’s challenges, and created a unique look as well.”
Landscape design: Chris Olsen, Botanica Gardens, Little Rock