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LANDSCAPE STYLES to inform and inspire your landscape Pt. 3

In this series on Landscape Design Style, we have looked at the Minimalist Style and Asian Inspired Landscape Style. Today, we will look at French Inspired Landscape Style.

French Inspired Style


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Formal or Informal: The French landscape can be created in a formal or informal way more reminiscent of French country gardens.

Overall sense: The French adopted many principles from renaissance gardens but incorporated a style of their own that represented control over nature.

Geometry: The design is geometric with symmetry. The home should be the number one focal point with paths that provide axial views and lead to something significant such as a fountain or sculpture. The remaining space is then arranged into a series of usable garden areas.

Hardscape: Common elements include flagstone patios, columns, formal shapes, stone edging along paths and planting beds, and pea gravel. Modern stone pavers, cobblestones and concrete can create the same ambience.

Plants: Different garden spaces are often created using a border of clipped boxwood, an allee of trees or topiary shrubs in containers. Fastigiate European Hornbeam or Columnar English Oak would achieve this feel. Plant material examples include boxwood, lavender, climbers & edibles in cool colors like purple, blue, white & green. Grapevine can be used on overhead structures.

Lawn: The principal axis is composed of lawn or gravel paths.

Furniture & Décor: Water is the most important element and water features are in circular, oval and rectangular shapes. The furniture is simple and elegant, such as cast iron seating. Other elements include planters made of cast iron, wood, or glazed ceramic and statuary, urns, trellises and birdbaths.

Coming Next: Part 4 – English Inspired Style


LANDSCAPE STYLES to inform and inspire your landscape Pt. 2

In the opening article of this series on Landscape Design Style, we looked at the Minimalist style.  Today, we will explore Asian Inspired Landscape Style. 

Asian Inspired

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A combination of formal and informal: Balance and symmetry are combined with imperfection and man-made is combined with natural.

Overall Sense: Meditative

Geometry: Free-form, organic shapes with meandering paths or, for a more modern take, concrete squares or rectangles with grass or moss in the spaces between.

Hardscape: Paving should be simple and natural. Examples include natural stone, pea gravel, exposed aggregate, and concrete for a modern approach. Dark granite rocks and boulders are also used in naturally occurring, varied shapes and sizes but consistent color and texture. Do odd-numbered groupings. A sense of enclosure is provided by fences & gates made from bamboo or wood with a grid pattern.

Plants: Examples include Japanese maple, weeping flowering cherry, ginko, mugho pine, bamboo, boxwood, grasses, hosta, and sweet flag. The space should not be filled completely and should have some voids.

Lawn: no lawn

Furniture & Décor: There should be minimal décor since the emphasis is on nature, however, simply designed furniture in bamboo, teak or stone works best. Water features are integral and should be simple in design and made of stone. Stone lanterns, rain chains, and wind chimes are also used.

Coming Next: Part 3 – French Inspired Style



LANDSCAPE STYLES to inform and inspire your landscape

Regardless of your home’s architectural style or your personal tastes, you want your home to appear connected to the surrounding space.  By taking cues from the architecture of your home, its materials and the surroundings, your house can blend seamlessly with the landscape.  That is not to say that it must be a literal interpretation of a historic landscaping style but you can add aspects of those styles that are adapted for you.  Landscaping trends tend to overlap and merge more than architectural styles and, while garden styles may have originated in a specific location, they’ve migrated and can be readily adapted to any area.  This series on different landscape styles will explore the following:

  • are they formal, informal or a combination of both
  • what is the overall sense and geometry
  • what are the design elements and material types for both hardscape and plants
  • what is the role of lawn
  • what furniture and décor is typical
  • what are the uses of form, line, color, and texture
  • what is the role of complementing versus contrasting elements to create harmony and/or tension and interest



Photos from

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Overall sense: The minimalist style is a streamlined aesthetic with sleek, sophisticated style that is distinguished by refined forms, pure materials and the achievement of balance. Typically, the focus is more on hardscape and structures than it is on plants. This style includes mid-century modern and works with a contemporary or ranch style home. It has its roots in the 1950s and ’60s but draws on the simplicity of Asian design principles. One of the main goals is to create contrast, however, it is important to do so selectively. Limit it to two or three areas and focus on one contrasting element for each area.

Geometry: Bold, linear lines with straight edges and ninety degree angles. Curved lines should be avoided.

Hardscape: Hardscaping has a restricted palette with limited material types. Paving is simple and clean with geometric shapes in repeated grid patterns. The materials of choice are concrete and wood decking used to create geometric patterns and straight lines. Gravel with rocks/ boulders is used in place of wood mulch. A feeling of enclosure is important and achieved with boundaries such as fences, blank walls and patio covers. Materials commonly used for fences, screens and walls include poured concrete, stucco, Ipe Brazilian hardwood, and steel sheet metals. Wood panels or fences should have horizontal versus vertical slats with hidden fence posts. Patio covers should emphasize geometric patterns and have an industrial appearance. Wire mesh and cable rail are also used.

Plants: Plantings are designed with order and a simplified, restricted palette. Plants are selected for architectural interest that have interesting form, line, and texture but minimal color, mostly in shades of green. Examples include spiky plants like ornamental grasses and yucca, rounded or columnar shapes like boxwood and evergreens, soft-textured weeping plants, succulents and anything with a strong visual punch. Use a single specimen of the architectural plant and a contrasting form around its base such as soft, fine textured plants. Plants should be planted in straight lines and grouped in odd numbers, preferably threes or fives. The spaces between pavers can be filled with gravel, rock, or grass. Enclosure can also be provided with the use of hedges.

Lawn:  little to no lawn.

Furniture & Décor: Water features are formal, geometric shapes with simplistic materials.   Furniture should be sleek, refined and made of sculpted metal, wood or plastic.   Pops of bold color can be added with furniture cushions, planters or a painted wall. Containers should be selected for texture, color and be geometric in shape. Contrast the shape of the pot with that of the plant. Sculpture and spheres are commonly used. Mid-century modern gardens feature vintage furniture and decor.

Coming Next: Part II – Asian Inspired Style


Urban Gardens, Inc. Wins a 2015 CARE Award


Urban Gardens, Inc. Wins a 2015 CARE Award

Urban Gardens, Inc., a landscape design and consulting firm located in Denver, Colorado and owned and operated by Sarah Christian, won a 2015 CARE Award. Sponsored by the Homebuilder’s Association of Metro Denver, the Colorado Awards for Remodeling Excellence, known as the CARE awards, are the largest and longest running contest recognizing remodeling of all types, including both commercial and residential projects. Categories are numerous and include kitchens, bathrooms, landscape, green building, and much more. CARE awards are judged blind by local volunteers, making it a fair competition that recognizes excellence in remodeling, no matter the authorship.

Sarah Christian of Urban Gardens, Inc. received a First Place prize for a landscape remodel project in the Stapleton Development in Colorado in the Landscaping category. This is her second CARE Award. The Tryggestad family wanted to redesign their small front yard and porch with an updated prairie style for their craftsman home. The round columns installed by the builder were the only round element on the front elevation and were replaced with new square columns with simple, clean lines more in keeping with the door, exposed rafters and multi-pane windows. To add a more contemporary look, the vertical wood railing on the porch was replaced with stainless steel rods run horizontally with a matching sliding porch gate to contain the family dog.





The steep, uninteresting existing steps were redesigned to be more gradual and reflect the long, low horizontal lines typical of the prairie style. The composite wood steps were replaced with natural materials, local stone laid in an Ashlar pattern with stainless steel lights installed in the risers. A stone wall was added across the front of the porch with the same feel as the steps and the ground level beds were outlined with stone edging.

Plantings included symmetrical massings of ornamental grasses and low perennials and groundcovers with interesting textural foliage that repeat the horizontal line of the prairie land and sky.

Sarah’s work was judged by the strength of design ideas, aesthetic and market appeal, sensitivity to existing structure, appropriate use of existing building elements, function and flow, craftsmanship, and overall presentation and compliance with entry requirements. When asked, Sarah stated, “I’m very honored to receive this wonderful acknowledgement from a jury of my peers. I’d like to thank my clients, Mike & Jen Tryggestad, for a great collaborative effort…” To read more, click here to view official press release.

Urban Gardens, Inc. of Denver Receives Best Of Houzz 2015 Award


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Over 25 Million Monthly Unique Users Rated Top-Rated Home Building,
Remodeling and Design Professionals in the United States and Around the World
Denver, Colorado, January 19, 2015Urban Gardens, Inc. of Denver, Colorado has been awarded “Best Of Houzz” for Design by Houzz, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. The landscape architectural design firm was chosen by the more than 25 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than 500,000 active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals.

The Best Of Houzz award is given in two categories: Design and Customer Satisfaction. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 25 million monthly users on Houzz, known as “Houzzers.” Customer Satisfaction honors are determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2014. Winners will receive a “Best Of Houzz 2015” badge on their profiles, helping Houzz users around the world who discover and love a professional’s work to learn even more about that business’ popularity and satisfaction rating among their peers in the Houzz community.

“Houzz provides homeowners with a 360 degree view of home building, remodeling and design industry professionals, empowering them to engage the right people and products for their project,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of industry marketing for Houzz. “We’re delighted to recognize Urban Gardens, Inc. among our “Best Of” professionals as judged by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”

Follow Urban Gardens, Inc. on Houzz

About Urban Gardens, Inc.

Sarah Christian is a registered landscape architect with 20 years of experience.  She owns and operates Urban Gardens, Inc.  For more information visit

About Houzz

Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. Headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, Houzz also has international offices in London, Berlin and Sydney. For more information, visit

Plants that Repel Mosquitos



With all the rain Stapleton has had last fall and this year, there is a lot of concern about mosquitos.  Don’t spend our short but glorious summers being held captive inside by mosquitos.  Oils found in certain types of plants, especially herbs, are natural mosquito deterrents that will help keep your garden mosquito-free.  You can place them in pots or in the ground to create mosquito free zones and/or make your own natural repellant by crushing the leaves with a mortar and pestle to release the oils and then adding it to vodka, another mosquito repellant.  Let the mixture sit for 12 hours.  Once infused, add your natural repellent to a spray bottle and use as you would any store-bought mosquito repellent. Continue reading

WHEN TO PRUNE (Continued from How to Prune)

If pruning is necessary, you can do light, corrective pruning any time of the year.  More severe pruning of most deciduous trees and non-blooming shrubs should be done during their dormancy in the late winter to early spring before they leaf out.  Insects and disease spores are less likely to infest pruning cuts during this time.  This is especially important for fruit trees that are vulnerable to fireblight.  It is also easier to see the plant’s form when it is without leaves.   In spring to early summer, energy reserves are being used for new growth and heavy pruning can weaken a tree or shrub.  By late summer and early fall, plants begin storing their energy reserves in their roots to use in dormancy for next season’s spring growth.  Pruning should be limited during this time since it may encourage new growth that would not have time to mature before being subjected to freezing temperatures.   By late fall after they have lost their leaves and there have been several hard freezes, more of the energy reserves are in their roots and there is less stress on the plant.

Continue reading

HOW TO PRUNE (Continued from Why Prune)

Pruning shouldn't be noticed HTprune2

“A good pruning job is like a good haircut.  It should hardly be noticed at all.”


Many shrubs will look their best when allowed to grow to their natural form with just occasional pruning of dead, damaged or diseased wood.  Avoid making cuts at a uniform edge creating a round ball or other unnatural shape or across the top of a shrub.   This is a Continue reading


If a plant is planted in the right place, minimal pruning will be required.  People often don’t do their research on a plant’s mature size and plant it in a space that is not big enough.  Windows may become covered or paths or gates may become obstructed by growth.  Furthermore, plants can be placed too close together by those in search of instant gratification and a full look.  A few years later, the plants have to either be drastically pruned or removed.   Over time, excessive pruning weakens and disfigures shrubs and results in a lot of unnecessary work and yard waste.
Overgrowth can block windows or take over an area.Research a plant’s mature size and plant it in a space that is big enough.

However, If you have selected a plant whose mature size fits its location, there are several reasons when pruning is appropriate. Continue reading

Urban Gardens, Inc. Wins a 2013 CARE Award

PR picUrban Gardens, Inc., a landscape design and consulting firm located in Denver, Colorado and owned and operated by Sarah Christian, won a 2013 CARE Award.  Sponsored by the Homebuilder’s Association of Metro Denver, the Colorado Awards for Remodeling Excellence, known as the CARE awards, are the largest and longest running contest recognizing remodeling of all types, including both commercial and residential projects.  Categories are numerous and include kitchens, bathrooms, landscape, green building, and much more. CARE awards are judged blind by local volunteers, making it a fair competition that recognizes excellence in remodeling, no matter the authorship. Continue reading