The creative stonework in this garden makes it stone-cool rather than stone-cold.
Photos by WeinrauchPhotography.com
When Brad and Emily Hahn purchased their Mapleton Hill home in 2003, it’d been a rental property for 30 years. The neglected house needed a facelift, and the yard was covered in pesky vines, unwieldy rhubarb and dying pear trees.
During a nearly two-year renovation of the home’s interior and carriage house, much of the unwanted vegetation didn’t survive. That left the Hahns, and landscape architect Hidelly Kane, with a blank canvas.
Today, that canvas is filled with an array of ferns, perennials, shrubs, grasses and small trees. What sets the Hahns’ yard apart, though, may be the handsome flagstone that frames raised garden beds, provides walkways from front to back, and forms a backyard playground for the couple’s two young children.
“Essentially, our patio has become an extension of our house,” Emily says. The patio is a regular hangout for their son Baker, 6, and 4-year-old daughter Alice. “They can cruise around on their tricycles and bikes on it,” Brad says, “then just jump right down into the backyard.”
Kane, a former owner of L.I.D. Landscapes in Boulder nearly three decades ago, now works with her husband, architect Chris Hanson. She begins landscape design projects by taking notes inside. “When I walk into someone’s house, I look at their interior furnishings, I look at how their space is organized,” Kane says. “And I try and take that same feeling outside to extend their level of comfort to the outside environment.”
Adding to the outside comfort in the Hahns’ home are small flagstone walls that rim plant beds on the east and west sides of the patio. The walls provide comfortable seats for adults or for children bursting with stories to tell their mom and dad. Smaller, foot-sized stones sit just below sod level in the backyard and create a path from the patio to the carriage house. Setting the stones low allows the kids to play soccer on the grass without concern of stubbing toes, Brad says.
The flat, smoothly grouted flagstone patio, set in an ashlar pattern, is easy to clean. Typically, all it takes is a good hosing. In addition to the stone’s maintenance ease, the Hahns chose buff-colored flagstone over red flagstone, concrete, brick pavers or wood, because it matched their home’s front porch.
A sturdy, thigh-high wall built long ago with river rocks and cement lines the porch. “We were very conscious with the neighborhood to pull in an older, more neutral color that you’d find in the time period,” Emily says. “We didn’t want it (the flagstone) to look new; we wanted it to look like it had always been part of the house.”
Mowing and More
One innovation Kane brought to the project makes lawn maintenance easier. Anyone who’s labored with a lawn mower around small stone walls or rises knows they’ll usually have to come back with a weed whacker to cut the grass at the wall’s edge after the lawn mower is back in the garage. To avoid that, Kane often includes what she calls a “mow strip,” where wall meets grass.
“We have a contractor dig a trench about 8-inches wide and 8-inches deep, below finish grade,” Kane explains. “Then they bring it back up with compacted road base (dirt).” Finally, a finish layer of dry-stacked stone is put in place. “What happens is you have a piece of flagstone that sits flush with the top of the sod, so you can actually take your mower and run over the top of that.”
Privacy was another concern for the Hahns, so Kane designed “living screens”—a series of trees and vines, in certain areas of the backyard. Stop by the home in spring, then drop in during early summer and you may think you’re at a different house. That’s because Kane designed the outdoor vegetation, which includes hundreds of different varieties of plants, to bloom at different times of the year.
“Every two weeks there’s something new popping up,” Emily says. “You’ll come back in two weeks and it will look different. A really gifted landscape architect will allow your garden to transform through spring and summer. It’s great for the kids, too, because they can say, ‘Hey, that used to be this high and now it’s got flowers on it.’”
A small patch of blackberries (“Put in a protected-enough area, blackberry does well here,” Kane says), raspberries and grapes also keeps Alice and Baker interested in tasty treats that grow in their yard.
The landscape’s educational aspects didn’t begin and end with the little ones, though. Emily admits the process of building and maintaining the colorful array of plants framed by the flagstone opened up a whole new world to her. She’s gone from novice to devotee.
“I was not a gardener,” Emily says. “I really didn’t know much about plants at all. When we were first creating it, I was standing in the background. I didn’t know what plant Hidelly was talking about or what it would look like. But now, the garden’s become my third child.”