Kat and Tim King of Land2c Landscape Architecture tame a slippery slope with flowing, private spaces and beautiful tableaux.

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A BUSY, URBAN family of four that loves the outdoors and camping but not necessarily gardening already had remodeled its 1920s vintage Queen Anne home three times before undertaking a garden renovation. But creating that garden oasis on a property as vertical as they come was quite a project.

The back garden, with its fabulous views out to the city and Puget Sound, falls sharply away from the back of the old, three-story house. How to create a seamless transition between indoors and out, let alone a garden inviting enough to lure family and friends to descend all those steps?

Designers Kat and Tim King of Land2c Landscape Architecture were up to the vision and the job. But not without a major excavation, safety considerations like replacement and widening of steps, a new irrigation system, night lighting and lots of carefully considered plantings. “We needed to create a new topography by berming the slope … originally it was flat and then a big drop-off,” explains Tim.

Tim is a landscape architect who specializes in crafting a smooth flow between house and garden. Kat focuses on color, plantings and decorative garden elements. She chose and placed every plant in the garden, except for the stately old sequoia that sold the family on the property in the first place. Lit up at night, the rough-barked old giant holds pride of place among a bevy of new plantings burgeoning up around it.

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But first, masses of blackberries needed to be removed at the bottom of the garden to carve out level space for a stone patio, a fire pit, benches and Adirondack chairs. This is now the family’s favorite spot to hang out. Leslie, the mom, speaks for the whole family when she says, “We love camping, and when we’re down in the garden around the fire pit, it almost feels like we’re out camping.”

The view past a patch of daisies up the steeply sloped garden toward the back of the three-story house. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
The view past a patch of daisies up the steeply sloped garden toward the back of the three-story house. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

The garden was designed to be looked down upon from the deck high above, with three arbors, art and a dramatically curving stone pathway. It works equally well as a space to stroll, hang out and enjoy the feeling of being submerged in the plantings. It’s a place apart, quiet, private and enlivened by the family’s five chickens, often let loose to peck their way around the garden.

The chickens are housed in a cleverly designed tansu of a chicken coop tucked beneath the steps down into the garden. Designed by Tim, and built by Bob Taylor (of Robert M. Taylor Construction), the coop is partially constructed of windows repurposed from one of the previous home remodels. There are built-in drawers for straw and food storage. The chickens have their own jungle gym, with perches and ramps to keep them busy when they aren’t out scouring the garden.

Luckily from both the chicken and the maintenance standpoints, Kat chose sturdy shrubs, ground covers and grasses to update, unify and simplify the garden. She planted them in generously scaled masses for great effect from above.

Kat and Tim King of Land2c Landscape Architecture designed, contoured and planted this steep Queen Anne slope to create usable spaces and a beautiful tableau from the home’s deck high above the garden. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
Kat and Tim King of Land2c Landscape Architecture designed, contoured and planted this steep Queen Anne slope to create usable spaces and a beautiful tableau from the home’s deck high above the garden. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

“I don’t like to see bare soil,” she explains. At ground level, black mondo grass consorts with golden creeping Jenny and Sedum ‘Angelina’. The flowers of star jasmine cover the arbors and scent the garden, along with sweeps of lavender. Plantings of Japanese forest grass and the orange sedge Carex testacea run between stands of oak leaf hydrangea and Mount Vernon English laurel. “And I love every evergreen fern there is,” Kat says.

Leslie loves shades of green, so Kat included plenty of feather reed grass; laced the old fence with trumpet vines; and planted a big-leafed, spreading fatsia in the shade beneath the sequoia. Originally, Leslie wasn’t much of a gardener. The easy-care beauty of her new garden has changed her mind.

“I used to be scared of gardening, of killing plants, but now I love caring for them,” she says.

After all the stonework (done by Rich Landscaping in Redmond) and hauling in 20 yards of good soil, Leslie, husband Justin, his mother and Kat did all the planting.

“Justin and I wanted to take it from there,” says Leslie. “Now we take care of the garden.”