Award-winning landscape designer Michael Glassman converts a neglected backyard into a functional and stylish space with a personal touch.
Award-winning landscape designer and author Michael Glassman once co-hosted a TV show called ‘Garden Police’. With his fellow co-host, garden designer Shirley Bovshow, he ‘busted’ dilapidated and neglected gardens and brought a new sense of purpose and colour to forgotten backyards.
Glassman is no stranger to rescuing derelict gardens. With more than 30 years of experience in landscape design and waterworks, he has carved a solid niche for his work in the field. When Glassman was commissioned to tackle this private garden in Land Park, Sacramento, his first reaction was not complimentary.
“The project ‘Before’ was a mess,” he says, “The concrete was cracked and the old deck was coming apart. The pool was outdated and the Tea House was falling down – the place was an absolute dump!”
The challenge was to convert the backyard into “a contemporary paradise.” The main issues were the rotting decking, the cracking concrete, the lack of a focal point and the sheer absence of any features worth looking at. The only greenery was random plants growing along the edges and in terracotta pots.
Glassman believes that every inch of a garden must be attended to and addressed otherwise it will continue to irk you. One of the first things he did was to commission the owner, a part-time tile artist, to create an exuberant tile mural to be used as the backdrop of the newly renovated swimming pool.
The owner also created a custom tile design for the steps as well as for the outdoor kitchen where a dining table and benches, shaded by an umbrella, provides a charming alternative dining area for the family.
The tea house was run down; it had overgrown plants around it, a sagging roof and a non-descript decor. Glassman and his team restructured the tea house by opening it up, installing new laser cut decorative steel panels, adding a new roof and painting the structure a bright red. Contemporary furniture gave the space a sense of elegance and formality. The shrubbery around the teahouse was pruned and new plants were brought in to add structure, texture and colour.
Concealed outdoor lighting illuminates the pathway and accentuates the plants after dark. For the flooring, Glassman used coloured broom finished concrete “to give it a more contemporary appearance.”
Privacy was also a huge issue. “We used fast growing, giant clumping timber bamboo (Bambusa Oldhamii) to create a screen.” says Glassman. Other plants were used around the backyard to create “living art”.
“A Japanese Black Pine bonsai and a weeping Atlas Cedar were used as living pieces of art and as focal points. Several varieties of ornamental grass including Mondo grass were used as ground cover and to provide textural accents.
We chose low-maintenance, low-water requirement plants that would be easy for the homeowner to take care of.”
The waterfall with the colourful tile mural was another focal point and added not just drama and animation, but the pink and blue wall, framed by roses, now also acts as a privacy screen.
The newly transformed backyard with its modern gray wall now accents the residential architecture and does the seemingly impossible – it blends together the interior, the exterior open spaces, the garden art and various other focal points.
What does Glassman think of the transformation? “I loved the outcome.
The landscape is contemporary, beautiful, hip and artistic and even has a slight Asian touch. The garden is now very colourful and I loved working with the client to create personalised art pieces; these are sure to bind the client to the landscape. It has given this landscape a SOUL…”A garden with a soul. Now that is a result any designer should be proud of.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy Michael Glassman