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Mini Meadow

How one couple got the carefree yard of their dreams.

By Catherine Warmerdam
Landscaping: Gary Kernick, Change of Seasons
Photos courtesy of Gary Kernick

WHEN AMY AND RODD KELSEY hired landscape designer Gary Kernick of Change of Seasons to completely overhaul the backyard of their Sacramento home, they had several goals in mind: Remove the thirsty lawn. Create a dedicated dining space with room for a barbecue. Carve out an area for growing vegetables. And choose plants and materials that make maintenance easy. The trick was fitting all of these requests into a yard that’s only about 1,000 square feet. After sketching out several different concepts, Kernick designed a plan that incorporated all of the couple’s wants and needs into a carefree, meadowlike yard where not an inch of space is wasted.

meadow yard

The layout

Working within a small footprint was the most challenging part of the project. “We had to take all the puzzle pieces and make them fit together in an aesthetic way and a functional way,” says Kernick, who divided the space in the different zones based on function. The dining area was kept close to the house for convenience. A lounge area was situated along the back fence to create a destination and a view from the patio. In between, a planting area gives definition to the two spaces. A metal trough adjacent to the house is where the compact herb-and-vegetable garden resides.

Fencing in the yard

The materials

Kernick got creative with hardscape and fencing materials to give the yard what he describes as an “urban-industrial farmhouse” feel. “In a small garden, I think it’s important that every part of it—from the plants to the paving to the walls and fences—be a part of the visual experience,” explains Kernick. For example, new and recycled woods alternate in a pattern that makes up a fence along the dining area. Corrugated metal sheets on the wall add interest and reinforce the farmhouse look. Bold terra cotta-colored paint transforms a neighbor’s garage wall into a focal point.


The plants

Kernick used the meadow as inspiration for his plant selection, which includes yarrow, dwarf butterfly bush and different varieties of grasses. “It’s a plant palette that I really enjoy,” says Kernick. “The homeowners were very interested in having a natural, loose, organic meadow feel, as well as plants that were going to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.”

Plants in the yard

The maintenance

Because the Kelseys don’t have a lot of free time to work in the yard, they needed an unfussy plant selection that didn’t need a lot of tending, and Kernick delivered. “He thought really hard about the plants that he chose,” says Amy. Most of the yard’s perennials and grasses require just a hard prune each year, usually in February. That’s a maintenance schedule that this busy couple can live with. As Amy explains, “We can go for months without touching the yard and it still looks good.”

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