Easy-care, pet-friendly outdoor spaces build on a family’s remodeled home, and its spectacular views.

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SHELLEY AND ERIC BRODERSEN hired garden designer Stacie Crooks near the tail end of their big home remodel. Still, it was early enough for Crooks to take full advantage of the indoor/outdoor potential of the home’s midcentury style.

The Brodersens’ Shoreline property was spectacular from the get-go. Even for the Innis Arden neighborhood, known for roomy properties and great views, the Brodersen half-acre is open and spacious. The 1950s home, which the couple has owned since 2004, was thoroughly remodeled, featuring a welcoming entryway, lots of glass and a ripe-for-the-landscaping courtyard.

But initially, the Brodersens just wanted to change the driveway, and remove some dense, dark trees. Once Crooks was involved, though, they decided to go ahead and have her relandscape the entire garden. “I wish we’d brought Stacie in even sooner,” says Shelley.

And no wonder. Crooks, who uses pretty much the same palette of hardworking foliage plants in every garden she designs, brought in small-scale trees, easy-care shrubs and perennials to create a leafy, colorful tapestry of plantings that carries the garden through the seasons.

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The busy Brodersen family includes two sons and two dogs, so the design needed to be practical and reasonably low-maintenance. The kids play basketball in the driveway, and the dogs … well, they don’t always stick to the paths. Because the property is open and sunny, Crooks played around with Mediterranean plants that thrive in the warm, bright conditions. And she kept in mind that the Brodersens recently had returned from living in France for a few years. “We were influenced by how, in France, nature and gardens are such an important part of home,” Shelley says.

The view out to the water from the Brodersens’ back terrace looks through a cloud-pruned pine. Designer Stacie Crooks and Shelley Brodersen plant the pots together every spring. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
The view out to the water from the Brodersens’ back terrace looks through a cloud-pruned pine. Designer Stacie Crooks and Shelley Brodersen plant the pots together every spring. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Because the new driveway dips down below street level, screening the house and garden was important. “The front garden felt dark and boring before,” says Shelley.

Now a slatted screen defines the entry to the home, accented with bronze pots and sweeps of glossy, golden Japanese forest grass. Keeping neighborhood covenants about tree height in mind, Crooks brought in mature trees like katsura, maples and arbutus for screening, planting dark-leafed smoke bushes for contrast. Now heather blooms along the driveway in winter, and the little bronze grass Carex tenuiculmis ‘Cappuccino’ spreads happily about. The foliages are mostly in shades of copper, silver and gold.

“The color palette looks vibrant in the sun and shows up well on gray days … it lends itself to the Northwest,” says Crooks. These colors, along with dashes of deep burgundy and chartreuse, are repeated throughout the garden to create a harmonious feel.

There used to be a hot tub in the courtyard between the garage and the floor-to-ceiling glass of the living room. That’s long gone, replaced by a painstakingly transplanted 60-year-old red Japanese maple, whose lacy foliage and twisted limbs create a dramatic focal point. Ferns, heuchera and black mondo grass complete the scene.

The back terrace is garnished with pots holding sun-loving plantings. Designer Stacie Crooks is working her color magic here; the blue-green of the pot, planted in textural sedum in shades of icy blue and contrasting yellow, blends with the helianthemum foliage burgeoning up around it. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
The back terrace is garnished with pots holding sun-loving plantings. Designer Stacie Crooks is working her color magic here; the blue-green of the pot, planted in textural sedum in shades of icy blue and contrasting yellow, blends with the helianthemum foliage burgeoning up around it. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Around back is a newly poured and expanded terrace. “We had the surface acid-washed so it would look more like it went with the ’50s-style house. Not new and shiny … a bit like an old sidewalk,” Crooks says of the new terrace. Pots are the focal point here; Crooks and Shelley plant them together every spring. “I’ve learned so much from Stacie,” says Shelley. “I used to plant geraniums.”

Tough, drought- and dog-tolerant helianthemum and heather lap up against the sides of the patio. Josie, a German Shepherd, and the little terrier, Napoleon, lie around in the “dog beds” near where the family sits outside in the evenings to enjoy the sunsets.

The beds around the terrace, and the rockery below, are filled with low-growing, spreading plants that echo the lines of the house and don’t interfere with the view.

“I’ve learned never to compete with a view,” says Crooks. At the foot of the rockery, a grapevine-draped pergola runs along one side of an otherwise wide-open stretch of lawn. And beyond that, a vast view out to Puget Sound and the Olympic mountain range.

“The gardens enhance the view and the house,” says Shelley. “The garden is now so much a part of the house that I love being outdoors as much as indoors.”