Uncategorized March 7, 2017

Dallas Garden Makeover





Standing in the center of this garden, you’d be hard-pressed to believe you are in Dallas, Texas. “This is a complicated lot. There’s about twenty feet of grade change, which is unusual for Dallas,” says Harold Leidner, owner of the Dallas/Fort Worth-area firm, Harold Leidner Landscape Architects. “The property feels secluded because of the grade changes.”

The hilly property was only a wooded lot when Leidner was first brought into the project. The house planned for the lot was a Mediterranean design, and the homeowners asked for gardens to match that style.

Leidner explains how he created the garden to complement the home. “It’s done through connection of spaces and style. The garden is rustic and relaxed. It fits into the natural area but still has a lot of organization and structure.”

In addition to the style, the homeowners made other requests. “She really loves flowers and things that bloom. He likes fireplaces and fire elements,” says Leidner. Both wanted lots of greenery and a series of paths and unique gardens to dot the hillside.


The ability to entertain large crowds was also on the couple’s wish list. The lower area of the lot is expansive enough to host grand parties, but includes enough intimate spaces to make it feel cozy. The pool provides a key entertaining space and is the focal point of the garden. The water presents a shock of blue amidst all the greenery. Pavers divided by grass create a diamond pattern that softens the hardscape. A spa tops one end of the pool, and a water feature on the spa’s edge flows continuously.

Next to the pool is a cozy sitting area that’s framed by a pergola. A massive wood burning fireplace is the centerpiece, and on either side of the fireplace are pots that have been converted into gas fire features. With an extended fall season and few harsh winter days in Dallas, the fire features are useable from October to April.

The mature tree canopy shades the garden, letting in dappled sunlight. A series of terraces circle the lot and lead up from the pool. Each terrace overflows with colorful azaleas and flowers that can be changed to match the seasons. Tulips, impatiens, geraniums, and pansies all take turns showing their seasonal colors.

On the other side of the pool, a stone staircase leads to a higher grade in the garden. The handrail mimics a grapevine, and the rail serves a practical purpose but looks organic, creating the illusion that it grows out of the stairway.

Hills and grade changes complicated this project. Leidner created the design plan using 3-D modeling to ensure everything was done correctly.



Even professionals need do-overs from time to time. Leidner tried mondo grass and zoysia grass between the pavers before finding the right solution. Synthetic grass conserves water, needs no maintenance, and is always green.

Lighten Up

Hardscape lends structure to gardens. You need elements such as paths, stairs, and walls for practical reasons. But sometimes hard edges intrude on the natural look that you love about your home’s outdoor spaces. Consider the following techniques from Harold Leidner to soften your garden’s hard edges.

Plant in the space between pavers. Paving stones don’t have to be surrounded by dirt, stone, or cement. Instead, plant grass, moss, or other low-growing ground cover. This technique visually softens the flat surfaces and provides a cool place to step if the summer sun makes the stones too hot for bare feet.

Insert planting pockets. In the dry stack stone walls surrounding this property, Leidner intentionally left pockets where he could insert plants. “If you didn’t have greenery coming out of the walls, it would feel like a concrete jungle,” he explains.

Mimic natural shapes. Another trick Leidner used in this landscape was to insert manmade elements with natural shapes. A prime example is the stair handrail shaped like a grapevine. “It looks like tangled vines, but it’s all steel,” he says. “It’s almost a piece of art.”

Informal paths lead from the lower areas up the terraced hills. Smaller, intimate gardens are found along the way. “Each space is like an individual room. As you walk up the paths, there are smaller intimate places that you can stop along,” says Leidner. Some of the gardens are hidden behind ornate doors. In a few spots, Leidner uses mirrors to play tricks on the explorer. “The mirrors hang on the fence and it looks like there’s a hole there. They hang high enough that you don’t see your own reflection but you do see the reflection of dozens of trees beyond you,” says Leidner. It’s an illusion that makes the garden seem to go on forever.

A wooden bridge and a shack are structures that add character to the landscape. Both look as if they have been there forever. The bridge provides a pathway across the creek found on the property, and the shack serves as a storage shed.

Earth, air, water, and fire merge naturally in this landscape, yet there’s an underlying plan that unifies the garden. “There’s a strong organization to this design,” says Leidner. “That may not be evident as you walk through it, which is really what you want. The garden appears soft and loose, but when you view the plans on paper, everything is laid out on axis lines. The vistas and views are controlled lines, but all of it is softened by greenery.”

Maria Walker

Maria Walker


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