Coming from Los Angeles, Rudy Darden and Dave Hoffman weren't used to rocky yards with changing winter and summer needs. When they first met...

Share story

Coming from Los Angeles, Rudy Darden and Dave Hoffman weren’t used to rocky yards with changing winter and summer needs. When they first met landscape designer Brandon S. Peterson, they wanted someone to maintain their Phinney Ridge yard.

But Peterson isn’t a maintenance kind of guy. Soon he had a vision for their yard. He saw plants blooming in summer and winter; the scents of citrus, chocolate and vanilla greeting visitors; and colors that mimicked the sun during the dull winters.

“We didn’t have a grand idea,” Darden said. “Brandon totally surprised us. … We couldn’t appreciate what was here in our own front yard.”

Peterson, owner of The Palm Room in Ballard, started with a low-maintenance design that is charming even after leaves fall. He achieved it by eliminating plants that looked “ratty” and overgrown and added ground cover, varied textures and plants that blossom through the winter. Several containers add greenery to an expansive deck.

Winter may not feel like a natural time to garden, but it’s a good time to assess your exposed garden, Peterson said. Summer covers up weaknesses.

“This is your opportunity to figure out what’s missing,” he said. “When you’re looking at a bare spot, it’s so much more barren in the winter.”

To make Darden and Hoffman’s yard more appealing, Peterson yanked silvery lavender and laurel, which require a lot of pruning. He left trailing rosemary, which blooms in the winter, and trimmed camellia and broadleaf evergreens to expose upright trunks and add architectural structure to the garden.

The designer


Brandon S. Peterson: The Palm Room, 5336 Ballard Ave N.W., Seattle; 206-782-7256

For texture along the main path to the front door, he mixed white, flowering edgeworthia with low, spiky agave; blue Spanish fir (abies pinsapo glauca); and buttercup winter hazel (corylopsis pauciflora), which has branches that naturally extend in a beautiful pattern.

Other shrubs like Pittosporum tobira ‘Wheeler’s dwarf’ and ground covers like kinnikinnick (arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and sedums patch bare spots. In one corner that already held black bamboo (phyllostachys nigra), he added a Japanese umbrella pine (sciadopitys verticillata) and native deer ferns for texture.

Peterson, 35, and an energetic force whose work ranges from deck consultations to expansive Eastside projects, believes in making your yard attractive for the neighbors.

“It opens up neighborhood involvement … it gives them something to look at,” Peterson said. “Also, you’re the coolest one on the block if you’ve got the one thing going on, like the [winter] hazel or corylopsis. These really are showpieces.”

For winter gardens, Peterson recommends focusing on areas you use frequently, such as the walkway to the front door, the curb area for passing neighbors and what you see from doors and windows.

In areas with deciduous trees, add evergreens for year-round greenery, Peterson said. Select bulbs like crocuses and snowdrops (galanthus) that pop up through low ground cover in the winter. Add fragrant plants like daphne odora near the front door.

Take out high-maintenance plants so you spend less time in the rain.

Peterson also assembled containers for Darden and Hoffman’s expansive deck, including a tabletop container for their outdoor furniture.

“We’re always looking forward to new surprises from him,” Darden said.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or ntsong@seattletimes.com