Lynn Wolfstone, of Wolfstone Landscape Design and her clients shared a love for the balanced and harmonious form and lines of traditional Japanese landscapes. The clients’ Lake Oswego home included a generous property sloping toward water frontage allowing cascading stream courses, an integral part of our regional geography and Japanese garden design and layout.

“The homeowners are great admirers of Curator Emeritus, Sada Uchiyama’s work at the Portland Japanese Garden,” said Wolfstone. “Through my volunteer work at the garden, I was also familiar with Sada and was thrilled they were able to bring him in to collaborate with the team on water features and hardscape.”

But this wasn’t to be just a formal iteration of Japanese aesthetic. “We approached this as an East-meets-West idea,” said Wolfstone. “Existing pleached hornbeams, a boxwood garden, and the homeowners’ nostalgic connection to the tulip gardens of the Skagit Valley prompted a blend. We have the Japanese expertise in telling a story through water, combined with seasonal lush colors and a Pacific Northwest aesthetic.”

From the house to the new glass conservatory, a mahogany dock, flower beds, pathways, steps, and seating areas follow along the journey of the water, which pauses briefly at small water gardens and a tranquil koi pond. Plants pocketed into the water features ease the flow and bring softness to the hardscapes.

Nearing the waterfront, an old shed has been reimagined as a light-filled conservatory. It can be fully opened or closed completely to create a quiet, meditative space. The conservatory can be used in all seasons to view the lake and contemplate the garden. With the sliding doors open, it is a wonderful place to host gatherings.

The landscape is always a work in progress. In addition to new work in the front of the property, Wolfstone and co-designer, Kira Iwasaki assist the homeowner with an annual spring bulb plan. “The theme is changed up year after year for these seasonal plantings – it’s a gorgeous tapestry of color,” said Wolfstone. “Homeowners who are consistently curious of the possibilities inherent in a growing and evolving landscape make these projects a joy.”


Wolfstone Landscape Design

Ross NW Watergardens 

Shoptalk - Lynn Wolfstone and Kira Iwasaki

Kira Iwasaki (left), designer, and Lynn Wolfstone, owner/designer Wolfstone Landscape Design,

What inspired your career in landscape design?

Lynn: I was always looking at compositions and thinking about form, line, color, and light. After a decade in the art gallery world, I completed a second degree in something that I loved, Landscape Design.

Kira: My background is in interior design and visual arts and was inspired to become a landscape designer after my family’s commercial greenhouse business celebrated 100 years. I felt called to embrace my farming and horticultural heritage.

How do you decide on the overall “feel” of a garden and create a landscape that is beautiful in form and function?

Lynn: Every garden is a personal expression of the homeowner. We ask what matters to them. Safety, calm, joy, exhilaration? We blend their goals with our expertise to develop an engaging and functional design.

Kira: A garden design is driven by a client’s favorite color, plant, season, fragrance, or memories. Those whimsical elements are woven into functional needs like spatial flow and privacy screening to create a practical, yet personalized space.

We love your approach that gardens are “living time-based art.” Tell us about selecting materials that thrive over time.

Lynn: Central to our practice is time devoted to analyzing plants and materials for our changing climate, durability, beauty and suitability for projects. Those materials become the tapestry of color and form that create the landscape.

Kira: A garden is living and breathing, feeds insects and animals, and has something visually appealing to offer each season. We pay special attention to climate zones, sun and wind exposure, and specific site needs.

What are your favorite hardscape features and why?

Any features perfectly executed, suited to the client and the needs of the project stand out. Beautiful pathways tell the story of the garden, unite the whole and link the residence to the garden. A handcrafted element in the form of a gate, bench, railing, or statement piece adds personality and charm.

Outside of your work, what are you currently interested in and how is it influencing your design thinking?

Lynn: Volunteer work with Portland Japanese Garden has been influential in my design thinking: framing views, material selection, exceptional maintenance, and a sense of the garden as restorative space are principles that inform all designs.

Kira: Cooking, making jewelry, learning about diverse cultures through travel and community activities. No matter what the medium or subject matter, there’s composition, color, technique, and a story from which to gain understanding.

How do you stay inspired?

Lynn: Travel, nursery and garden visits, meeting with design professionals.

Kira: Any kind of art, beautiful imagery, being in nature.

How did your growing-up experience impact your appreciation for outdoor spaces?

Lynn: Gardening was not a hobby in our household, it was part of the annual cycle. My mom’s dedication to gardening and my dad’s degree in architecture and focus on design were very influential.

Kira: My parents instilled an appreciation for flowers and nature by raising me in the countryside. The forest was our garden, and favorite views centered on the valley and mountains beyond.

Three words that most appropriately sum up your design approach are…

Lynn: Understanding, collaborating, creating.

Kira: Respecting, engaging, optimism.