Landscape Design

Design DON’Ts- The Landscape Island

The ‘before’ yard was rather generic and unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it.  You’ll just have to trust me that it was the standard ‘Utah’ yard- complete with landscape island!

So, what is the deal with the landscape island anyway?  It seems that nearly everyone in Utah believes they are supposed to have one- whether it makes sense in their yard or not!  If YOU have one of these, consider eliminating it in favor of a landscape peninsula.  What’s the difference? See below.Originally, the planting area on the right side of the photo was just an island.  There was grass between the island and the house and neither the house nor island were ‘grounded’ in the landscape.

Landscape islands are psychologically uncomfortable and often improperly scaled or illogically placed. They go against your natural instincts and often camouflage the architecture landscaping is supposed to enhance. Sometimes, in an effort to avoid hiding the house, they are pushed the edge of the yard leaving bits of unusable grass that nevertheless requires a lot of water and maintenance.
The addition of a path and reconfiguration of the island shape now connects the island on one side to the house and foundation plantings. The island is ‘anchored’ into the landscape and the house blends into the landscape better.

In the landscape shown in this entry, we took an existing island and ‘anchored’ it by adjusting the shape and creating a path between the former island and the foundation plantings.

The path also creates a way to drag the garbage cans out on their proper day without messing up the lawn- a landscape still needs to function for the way real people live. Now, here is the part that is confusing because while an island is USUALLY a no no, you CAN create a peninsula (jutting out but attached on one side or end) and have that ‘feel’ just right. Confusing I know so I guess you’ll just have to trust me.

I’m not sure where the ‘before’ photos ended up but the island area was just a big circle of random plantings plopped into the lawn with little thought or reason- something everyone has seen dozens of times on any given street. There was no pathway to the backyard and the whole thing was BORING.

Here’s how we solved the problem. Oh- and notice the grade change we created within the beds, that also creates a feeling of ‘enclosure’ or protection that IS psychologically comfortable. I don’t think this landscape is my ‘best’ work because I’m finding my own style more and more with each subsequent landscape but I’m still happy with how it came out.

And a couple more photos of the rest of the front yard.

The pink flowers are one of my favorite- ‘Coral Canyon’ Diascia, common name Twinspur.  This is the only Twinspur that is hardy in Utah and the Intermountain West.  It will perform like an annual, bloom begins in late June and continues until it’s just too darn cold- as late as December for me in my Zone 6b landscape. It certainly makes the list of ‘Best Underused Plants’ and as an added bonus, it is waterwise!

Landscape Design: Cynthia Bee, Design Resource

Landscape Installation: Sean Jones, Solscapes

Related posts:

You Might Also Like

  • Messy Jess
    February 22, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Hey nice work! Very professional – thumbs up! When you said garden I thought of food – see where my mind is?

  • rebecca
    February 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    I could never put my finger on why I DETEST “islands” (I didn’t even know that’s what they were called), but you nailed it. Psychologically uncomfortable 😉 Beautiful yard – I love that path!

    • Cynthia
      February 23, 2011 at 3:05 pm

      It seems around here that everyone thinks they are SUPPOSED to have an island. Just trying to debunk that!

  • Melissa
    March 24, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Islands= Mother-in-law burial plot. 🙂

  • Elisa
    April 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I have an island in my front yard, and I detest it. I LOVE what you did with that one. I don’t know how I would pull it together… maybe I need you to come visit me and give me a design makeover.