THE BEST YARDS speak to you — offering subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle hints about their owners and what they might be like. This is most definitely the case for Sharalyn Ferrel’s ranch-style home in Bellevue, set on a sprawling, flat piece of property that hugs the corner in a small subdivision where she has lived for 35 years. Here Ferrel has designed and planted a garden that perfectly reflects her verve for life and boisterous spirit.
“Part of the whole plan for this yard was that this would be low-maintenance,” says Ferrel. She moved into this new-to-her house four years ago — her old house is a stone’s throw away. The original garden was an unorganized series of rose bushes and overgrown lawn. “I always draw out on a napkin what I want — a wave of blue, a wave of glass, whatever.”
She has a mostly perennial garden punctuated by pathways, black rock, river rock, pebbles, and garden art and sculptures. Spheres and orbs made of metal, glass and cement show up in most of her garden beds. “It’s the colors of the foliage that give you the drama,” Ferrel says of her plant choices.
The front door is flanked by tall, columnar yews; black mondo grass; lime-green Ogon grasses planted in clusters; and a stream of daphne, which bloom in winter. Sago palms sit at the front door in conical-shaped pots on pedestals.
“I absolutely adore alliums,” she says about the Allium ‘schubertii’ and willowy ‘Globemaster’ bulbs that bloom in spring among all of the grasses. She plants consistently across the property, and adds the same combination of plants out in the parking strip, along walkways and again in the backyard.
Across a sprawling lawn, she has created nooks for sitting under the two large trees in the front yard. Modern bucket chairs and an orb-shaped side table sit under a disco ball hanging from a dogwood tree. In the magnolia tree on the front corner of the property, she has strung metal star-shaped lanterns she brought home from Oaxaca, Mexico. There is a bench with cushions and a candelabra — like a little courtyard in the middle of the lawn.
“I know I’m a little out there with this stuff, but I still want it to be subtle,” says Ferrel. While these spaces technically sit on the main street and are exposed to the neighborhood, their shade offers respite on hot days from the west-facing backyard.
A big fan of making outdoor “rooms,” Ferrel has created in her backyard a series of spaces that feel unique and intimate. It’s a backyard designed for entertaining. On the southern edge of the property, she has a hot tub surrounded by hydrangea; New Zealand flax; and a palm tree underplanted with Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, one of her favorite plants.
She added French doors to the master bedroom at the back of the house, and built a small patio here — a hop, skip and jump to the hot tub. The adjacent garden bed is planted with more grasses in river rock and a crape myrtle. “I’ve always thought about outdoor living spaces, putting carpets down and things.”
The backyard is where Ferrel’s quirkiness is on full display. “In the front, I try and be more classic and reserved, and in the back, I can be flamboyant and do what I want,” she says.
She has a collection of glass cloches — old warehouse lighting fixtures now being used for nightlights — sitting over solar lights that glow. These are placed under a magnolia tree, where she has hung glass sculptures that she picked up at a flower show years ago. A neighboring tree houses a mannequin that gets lit up at night. All are underplanted with her trinity of grasses: Ogon, black mondo and restios.
Farther along, there is another small patio with an altar-turned-bar-top that begs someone to come sit in the sun and drink. Against the house, she has a curtained-off sitting area with a small couch, cushy chairs and ottomans. The backyard is also home to a small pool with an adjacent kiddie pool that Ferrel has converted into an art installation with glass orbs that float and clink against each other. “It’s like a water ballet,” says Ferrel.
There are container pots everywhere, filled mostly with succulents; conifers; grasses; and, of course, glass art. The backyard is all turquoise color pops with black-and-white furniture and accents. She intentionally mimics the colors used in the landscape.
A low window to the kitchen slides open, and allows for food and drink to pass through. She has designed a small putting green against the house where guests can chip into the pool with golf balls that float. A doorway opens up to a small changing room off the pool, which used to be a laundry room. She opened it up and put in a shower for guests. Everything is well thought out and intended for socializing.
“As the sun moves around, I do find myself moving around,” says Ferrel. She drinks her morning coffee in the sunny middle patio, and finds shade in other parts of the yard for her evening glass of wine.
And like every passionate designer/gardener, there’s more to come. Plans for a small casita on the northern edge of the backyard are in the works. “It’s fun. I have a wonderful time doing it,” she says.