2017 MNLA Excellence in Landscape Design Award Winner

Deep green and dark gray, this backyard design merges functional outdoor living spaces with a simple, naturalistic setting. Southview's landscape architect took great care to cultivate a simple atmosphere by blending the new features into the existing yard. This project won an award for Excellence in Landscape Design in 2017 from the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association.

Homeowners' Wishlist

  • Address erosion/drainage issues
  • Create entertainment spaces (under the deck and a fire pit patio)
  • Create a natural-looking stream/waterfall and pond with native fish and plants for a fly-fishing homeowner
aerial view of the fish pond, natural stone patio, and paver walkway

From above, you can see how the organic shapes of the fire circle and pond feel natural and balanced.

Design Elements

  • Natural stone patio and fire pit
  • Cascading waterfall and pond with native fish
  • Native garden plantings
  • Tucked away under the deck outdoor living room
  • Natural forest palette
Underneath the deck a sheltered outdoor living room

Underneath the deck, is a sheltered paver patio with a ceiling fan and more seating.

Best Management Practices

  • Install drainage system to manage storm water
  • Re-use existing plant material
  • Use locally-sourced hardscape materials
  • Native plants, native fish
  • Balance of cut and fill for the stream and fire pit patio
  • Reduce irrigation needs

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Before & After

Before: Challenges on all sides

With a sloping backyard in one direction and a large, heavily-wooded hill dropping in from another, there was little room to entertain or level area for the kids to play. Erosion was a serious issue, creating deep gullies in the yard and filling the underdeck area with sand.

Furthermore, the space under the deck was used for wood storage. People generally use this space for storage so no surprise – except the stacked wood, covered in tarps, was an eyesore on view through the sliding glass doors of this walkout.

After: Functional Design and Forest Waterfall

The design concept was to emulate nature as much as possible. The waterfall and stream should look like they had been there forever. So, native plants and fish were added to the mix. Mr. Homeowner chose crappie and perch for the pond. (The fish come through winter just fine.)

backyard water feature pond with fish in eagan, mn

Aquatic plants grace the surface of this stony backyard fish pond

Private backyard pond, Verdant gardens

The designer chose a combination of garden schemes from Roy Diblik. Hailing from Wisconsin, Roy has created perennial gardens for all conditions. Right plants, right conditions, right spot – garden maintenance would be a snap for these homeowners. And in time, as the plants grow together, there would be no need for irrigation (not counting the lawn in the area outside the renovated landscape space).

building an award winning backyard waterfall

Building a Waterfall

After clearing some of the hillside, a test showed sandy soil was contributing to the ongoing erosion problem. To solve this issue, the designer worked with the grade of the large hill instead of reshaping it into level spaces.

backyard water fall and stream

The stream started higher up on the hillside so it would appear to emanate from deep within the hill. The steepness of the hill created the waterfall effect with the stream curving along the base of the hill – completing the illusion. The larger Gitchee Gumee boulders formed the sides of the stream. It was important the boulders be locally-sourced. Boulder placement was key in eliminating the erosion problem.

Improve Your Life Outdoors

Meet with A Landscape Designer or Architect

Your perfect outdoor living space begins with a simple conversation. Let’s talk about your outdoor living space!

Schedule a Meeting

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