A desire to turn a 1.5-acre garden from a vast expanse of sometimes boggy grass into something more suitable for a family of five with three very active children, the homeowners turned to the Seattle landscape architectural firm of Land Morphology and its CEO and President, Richard Hartlage. “Richard designed a series of different garden spaces around the house that make you feel embraced by nature – the plants, trees and mountains,” says the homeowner. The site, however, presented several complex challenges, given its proximity to Issaquah Creek, the salmon who populate it, and the threat of stormwater runoff that threatened them both.

Working with Dale Nussbaum, Founder and CEO of Nussbaum Group, a landscape construction company, Hartlage devised a variety of ways to protect the native habitat where the salmon reproduce. “A zigzag swale feature,” he explains, “is not only engaging to look at, but it also enables us to control the flow of water runoff,” Nussbaum adds, “Richard took a required feature and made the swale architectural, beautiful and functional; it was our job to make it work as perfectly as possible.”

Invisible to the eye, but brilliantly conceived to also solve water runoff contamination is the main bioswale located above the lower zigzag one. Hartlage planted this area with Kelsey’s Dwarf Red-Osier Dogwood, a very compact plant, which is also good for erosion control. Several rain gardens are the triumvirate that further mitigate the runoff. “This area is a very soft flowing swale in the back of the house,” says the wife, describing its Gold Dew Tufted Hairgrass planting as reminiscent of Ostrich feathers.

“My design reflects the home’s up to date ‘Midcentury Modern vibe,’ which is very reliant upon a simpler Asian aesthetic,” says Hartlage. Designed as four quadrants, with a series of hedges that separate private from public areas, the garden features a side garden and patio for entertaining in one quadrant, while burgeoning with a brilliant array of flowers in another. Here, towering Globemaster purple alliums remind the homeowners of the extraordinary plants Dr. Seuss might have invented. “We didn’t want everything perfectly manicured, but more carefree,” adds the homeowner. Elsewhere, Hartlage employed large precast concrete pavers edged in Leptinella Squalida or Brass Buttons, eschewing the oft-used creeping thyme, which he dislikes, calling it messy, prone to root rot and quick to die off when overwatered.

Native plants like Goat’s Beard thrive here, adding interest to Hartlage’s desire to create a pleasant environment. “They entertain a lot, so, I wanted to create a very comfortable, lovely place, not pretentious or overdone. I was also trying to do something interesting around the house to reinforce the geometry of the spaces,” he says, “not just a big mass.”

“To do great garden design,” Nussbaum says, “you need to work with a good landscape architect, which is why it’s so gratifying to work with Richard Hartlage and to have owners who are open to great design.”

“It’s a really fun place to hang out in the middle of summer,” adds the wife. “The flowers are at their peak. The kids and the dogs love the yard with trees to climb, places to hide. We couldn’t be happier with Richard and Dale’s work and how it turned out.”


Land Morphology

Nussbaum Group

NB Design Group