Tiered Landscaping Ideas
It seemed all traces of the natural world were obscured. “So, we asked ourselves, ‘How are we going to make this look rural?’” says Scheen, owner and founder of Austin’s LandWest Design Group. It was an odd question, considering the mess at hand, but as it turns out, it’s one that precedes many a wonderful garden design. “You get to a site and there’s an enormous sense of potential — what this could be, what you could build here, ” he says. Fortunately, Scheen had worked with the couple who purchased the land on several other projects. The trust and comfort of a longtime relationship came in handy for this extensive renovation, which eventually took more than two years to complete.
The result is a dramatically tiered, lushly green outdoor space that feels like it’s in the middle of the country, surrounding a modern home of stone and glass that’s perched on the side of a hill. Scheen is a former specialist with an Army National Guard engineer unit, and that experience came into play frequently. “From the bottom of the site to the top there’s an elevation change of 60 feet, ” he says. “That’s a huge challenge, but it also creates a dynamic property.”
Major infrastructure was required, beginning with the addition of retaining walls. Scheen used Corten steel to build a series of planted terraces. He left portions of the metal visible, a striking touch he used with other clients, including Laura Rulon-Miller, an interior designer who worked with Scheen on two houses, including her own.
“Rick is not only good at the aesthetics but function too, ” says Rulon-Miller, who lives on a slightly sloped parcel, for which she needed maximum use. “He accomplished that with tiers. The steel of the borders ages spectacularly.” Indeed, the orange-brown surface on the metal gives an extra dash of color to this Austin landscape.
Water is everywhere — this is no dusty Texas Hill Country. The showstopping feature on the property is definitely the waterfall feeding into a creek behind the house’s back patio, perfect for the party-giving clients. “We wanted a Fallingwater feel, ” says Scheen, referring to Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterwork in Pennsylvania, which is cantilevered over a falls. “It’s a real wow factor for entertaining.”
Cor-Ten steel retaining walls act as planters along the creek bank. Strong winds blow through this area, so Rick Scheen decided on Muhlenbergia dumosa and Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feather grass) to show movement. Photo by: Jon Whittle.