Artful landscaping makes a rebuilt property in Boulder’s Newlands neighborhood look like it’s always been there.

By Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Photos Courtesy of Paul Hartman/Changing Landscapes


Steeps are fun—if you’re a skier. They’re a bit more challenging when you’re landscaping a home.

Paul Hartman, president of Longmont-based Changing Landscapes, knew working with the sharp elevations in Scott and Jayme Morgan’s yard wouldn’t be easy, but he was up for the challenge.

After Rob Luckett Builders scraped and rebuilt the existing home on the Morgans’ lot overlooking Boulder’s Newlands neighborhood, the only vegetation left on the property was a tall spruce in the front yard. Changing Landscapes was tasked with creating gardens that blended with the foothills setting while retaining huge walls of soil on the steep lot.

Luckett asked Hartman to complete and execute a rough design drawn up by Boulder-based Marpa Landscape Architecture. “The big thing was just how to retain everything and create a garden at the same time,” Hartman says. “We did that with boulders—placing and figuring out how to make all these boulders work together in a natural setting.”

In the front yard, Hartman carefully placed moss rock boulders to retain a hill for stairs that climb about 10 feet in a 20-foot span, then filled it in with low-water sedums and ice plants, Turkish veronica, wooly thyme, basket of gold, snow in summer and day lilies. “It was quite a job to build that up, make it look natural and plant it so it looks beautiful and solid,” he says.

In the back yard, Changing Landscapes hauled in massive boulders to build a network of terraces, two patios that hold a hot tub and a fire pit, creating different zones for the Morgans to relax and play in (the upper terrace even has a ping-pong table). With only a narrow access to the back yard between the Morgans’ home and the neighboring house, the Changing Landscapes crew had to backfill a window well to get their skid steer through.

Drainage—always a problem on steep lots—was another challenge. “We had to get water to flow out and around the house without going into the neighbors’ property,” Hartman says. His crew accomplished this by building a large drainage system into a flagstone patio on one of the terraces that directs water from the home’s gutters into a dry stream bed that empties at the bottom of the front yard.

Hartman’s planting plan included an abundance of aspens—the Morgans’ favorite tree and a natural for the foothills setting—as well as Colorado spruce, pinyon pine and Russian hawthorns to screen the yard from the neighbors. Native yellow columbines surround the aspens, and the boulders are flanked with ornamental grasses and creeping blue spruce. Blue mist spirea, black-eyed Susan, lavender, blue fescue, Siberian iris, potentilla and penstemon bring color.

Three vegetable beds, fruit trees and raspberry bushes in the back allow the Morgans to grow food. Pumpkin vines tumble down the slope in front.

The result is a landscape that blends seamlessly into the foothills surrounding it. The Morgans are pleased—and they’re not alone. Last year, the garden won an Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado (ALCC) Gold Elite Award for Landscape Construction, one of an elite few that ALCC CEO John McMahon says “exhibited impressive environmental stewardship.”

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