Patio Garden Make-Over Blends Old with New

Here’s one of my recently completed projects – a patio garden make-over after a kitchen and family room renovation. I love it when existing clients call me when they are doing a renovation. I already know their garden style, family lifestyle, how they use and enjoy their landscape, color palette, and the land’s orientation to sun and shadow.

(Of course, with new clients, I gather this information so I can create a custom and wonderful garden design for them.) In this case, a kitchen renovation and family room upgrade included a new exit–French Doors and brick steps leading to nowhere.  It made their existing patio and garden off the living room seem far away and not part of the view or their daily life.

03-c-b before 079
Before showing the end of the existing  patio and bulkhead next to new doorway and steps.
04-c-b- before long view 080
Before of the utility area just beyond the new door and steps.
14-c-b-digging the foundation 9_16
Preparing the patio and walk base.
12-c-b the trench for the drainage 9 _15
Digging the downspout drainage pipe trench.
09-c-b-base in laying the sand 9 _15
Compacting the sand layer and applying the stone dust layer for the patio and walk base.
10-c-b-finding to the 3rd stone match _9_15
Triumph! I matched the third color!
11-c-b digging the patio & walk base 9 _16
Top soil piled for later use in beds, you can see the new patio seamlessly progressing outward.
5-c-b meaking the planting bed width shape 056
You can see my yellow tape. I’m measuring the area so I can mark the new planting bed edge for the crew. They will remove the sand, add composted soil, and mound the bed to blend into the lower existing lawn grade. You can see the existing patio wall and the edge of the existing garden that includes a dogwood tree.
6-c-b planting bed 096
The new planting beds echos and extend the shape of the existing patio. It is also designed for four season appeal with boxwood that repeats the patio bed planting and perennials for spring, summer, and fall color. The perennials also repeat those used in the front entry gardens.
15-c-b after its planted 9_15
Installation just completed. Waiting the lawn seed to germinate. Homeowner will purchase a fire-pit and colorful Adirondack chairs for the patio extension.
2-c-b-after with lawn 10 19 IMG_6206
Lawn has germinated, new containers have arrived, waiting for the fire-pit area chairs. For now homeowners are using their patio table chairs for the new fire-pit. The dogwood tree in the foreground was transplanted from the woodland edge. It was planted at the same time as the existing garden tree. Thus it’s the same size and age as the two flanking the existing patio and garden. This tree adds an important vertical aspect to create an intimate space. Its placement, size, and repetition helps to connect old and new.



The design project included a new path to the existing dining patio from the new doorway, enlarging the existing patio so that a fire pit and chairs or another table could be added,and, of course, plantings to make it all one and seamless.


Previously I had tweaked the straight narrow planting beds to echo the lovely curving short brick wall. Changed the shape and expanded the plantings within.  I wanted to extend the existing curves and continue the feeling of the beds.  By the way there are two dogwood trees. Design challenges included hiding the view of  the bulk head, meters, AC, and generator while making the new patio and garden seamless–like it had always  been there.


At a design review meeting, the homeowners decided to move the bulkhead to the side creating larger planting area with no bulkhead view. That decision enabled me to create a lovely shade garden to balance all the hard-scape.


Construction challenges included matching a tri-color pattern of blue-stone installed over a decade before.  The first two colors were an easy match, but  the third proved challenging. So I got into the act.  With a sample in hand, I searched every crate at the stone yard until I  found one small crate hiding in a corner. It was an ‘all color thermal’ that had the greenish tinge we were seeking. The other two colors were blue cleft and a purple version of the cleft. The use of the thermal in the original pattern was a interesting twist, but nice.

It’s very common to unearth hidden problems when you start excavating and that’s where a a landscape designer can jump in and quickly sort out any problems while making sure the design is not compromised. During the demolition, an old drainage pipe was discovered. It originally installed at much too shallow a depth. We found the other drainage pipes from 3 downspouts clogged. The decision was made to connect all three and install new pipe deeper that did not run under the new patio addition. I determined a direction that wouldn’t intersect The with some future possible swimming pool plans. The pitch worked in our favor and we were able to daylight the pipe into a good spot in the homeowners’ woods (with a covered end, of course, to keep the critters out).

Another feature is the brick edging outlining the patio and walkway. The existing patio has curving brick wall defining the edge of the dining patio.   The brick continues the texture and color of the brick wall into the flat plane. Luckily the homeowner had extra brick so it was an exact match. Using the brick creates a cohesive continuation of old blending into new.

The homeowner’s have already enjoyed toasting marshmallows for s’mores with their new fire-pit. We explored gas, but felt the portable fire-pit gave them more options to use the space. If they have a large party, the fire-pit can be located on the grass. A second dining table and chairs can be placed in the patio extension.

The design and installation of this patio project is a good example of the positive role a designer can play in planning and supervising even a small garden renovation project.

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