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Yardzen Review: Is It Really Possible To Design A Beautiful Yard Remotely?

We bought this house for the property. The vibe. The space. It was magical, and the potential was so easy to visualize. We had plans to remodel the house first, then tackle the yard in phase 2 or 3, but some areas are getting fast-tracked so that we can spend time out there this summer and fall (and because the construction and rain turned it into an absolute mud pit and ruined the hardscape/landscape, so, yeah…). I’ve decided to prioritize the “kitchen patio,” with the hopes of enjoying it by midsummer. But my brain space is tapped out with the renovation/river house/book/blog, so I reached out to Yardzen to see if partnering on this smaller area would be a good fit for them — and frankly, I was very curious if a digital design would even work for a large property with more of a traditional vibe like ours. But they were excited to dive in, and I literally can’t wait to show you what it’s going to look like. Be prepared to be blown away. Let’s start back almost 3 years ago — that’s right, a year BEFORE the pandemic, when we first fell in love with the property.

This patio area is right outside the kitchen, and it gets the only afternoon/evening shade on the property, thus it’s likely where we’ll grill and eat dinner while the kids are playing in the yard. The back porch in the summer gets hot, horizontal, western sunlight (we are planting a few trees to combat this), making it less enjoyable to chill…we think. Hard to know until you live there. There will likely be two long picnic tables under the oak tree by the someday-redone sports court, for bigger groups, but this is more for us and possibly another family to enjoy. It’s a sweet little area that feels charming and intimate.

My biggest doubts and questions about working with a digital landscape design team were:

  1. Can Yardzen do a more traditional/lived-in look? We wanted a more custom/special hardscape plan. Will they get the vibe?
    – Answer: You’ll see for yourself below. 🙂
  2. Will Yardzen know what plants are native to and will thrive in the PNW?
    – Answer: Yes. Their design team has a lot of regional knowledge thanks to their on-staff horticulturalists and their plant database. They also have local contractors throughout the United States who help with plant selection.
  3.  What happens after you have the plan? How do you execute it?
    – Answer: You can do it yourself or hire your own team, but Yardzen also has a really wide network of vetted contractors throughout the United States who will install their designs (including ours — which I’ll tell you about after we finish the project, with a hopefully glowing recommendation).
  4. Can Yardzen do a full property? For instance, would they do the full 3 acres?
    – Answer: They really specialize in functional outdoor spaces for front yards and backyards. For the homestead/farm part of our property, we’ve hired Studio Campo to help figure out the meadowscaping, the paddock, etc., with more local hands-on to the design.

So, I’ll bring you along the process of working with Yardzen, a step-by-step of how you’d get your vision (and the details) across through a virtual platform.


The measurements were easy. I was scared that I was going to need fancy site measurements, but I did it all with a measuring tape. I used my iPhone for photos.


I took the quiz, and it was FAR more fun than I had predicted. I thought that I would have to know a lot of technical stuff, but it was more about choosing pictures that I liked — landscaped backyards, design elements, types of plants, etc. It was actually really fun. It gets less fun when you talk budget (per usual), and you should be prepared for the fact that landscape design is more expensive than you think it’s going to be (mostly due to the time and labor involved). But they have a post to help you understand the cost. Here’s an idea of what the quiz looks like:

These are honestly the same questions someone in person would ask as well. It’s like a style diagnostic — which you know I love. So I submitted everything, and after a few weeks, we got the first version, and we couldn’t believe it. There were things we wanted to change, but our level of excitement was high just seeing Version #1, which I’m going to show you today.


This rendering absolutely blew us away — I almost cried. It was a much-needed dopamine hit during a very long renovation (that we are grateful for but…OOF). To see this visual, to know that someday we are going to be able to enjoy the beautiful version of this home that we are putting so much hard work and resources into…was overwhelming in the best way. I almost cried thinking our mud pit was someday going to look like the Yardzen renderings. Thank you, Kevin (Yardzen’s Design Director).

WHAT WE LOVED: The variety of the plants along this wall and how it really softened the space.
OUR NOTES: I think I said that I love purple at some point, but I really just meant the deep, dark purple leaves of some shrubs, not purple flowers. I also wanted a more delicate tree on the corner (I loved the other one at the far end) with less dense leaves.

WHAT WE LOVED: I loved the blossoming tree in the corner.
OUR NOTES: We want to nix having dirt around the house in the patio area and have more space for us to grill. Since we don’t know where the barbecue is going to live, we want more flexibility. Additionally, with all the rain and having a white house, it’s recommended to have as much hardscape as possible along the sides of the house. We also want fewer potted plants, just to keep it simpler and cleaner (but I can see us adding more).

WHAT WE LOVED: We loved the idea of the more random brick pattern with mixed materials (some aged, some reclaimed). It was inspired by a photo we showed them that we are OBSESSED WITH of Ulla Johnson’s backyard (see below).


design by elizabeth roberts and peter marino | via architectural digest

Once again I found myself obsessed with a creative design risk that someone else took and wanted to do our version of it, but also once again, I’m chickening out. When we saw the brick pattern laid out in the renderings, we realized that it was too contemporary for this house, and we actually want something far more classic (e.g., herringbone or a basket weave). We are going to play with borders, but mixing materials and doing a random pattern felt wrong to us after seeing it. Of course, you have to realize that renderings don’t show age and the texture of materials as well as in real life (which is why you need to order and always reference real samples of materials).


WHAT WE LOVED: The anchoring blossoming tree, the simple grasses, and the ferns — the whole vibe feels natural, simple, and unfussy.
OUR NOTES: Well, after seeing the rendering, it’s becoming increasingly important to figure out the pathway/stairs/roofline awkwardness situation. I thought that Yardzen could design the patio while we figure it out, but it’s affecting the design too much. Essentially the kitchen windows (and cabinetry) were designed with the door moved over, and we didn’t really catch that by moving it, it would no longer line up with the stairs and the covered pathway. Meanwhile, the original overhang was rotted, so it was demo’d months ago for safety. Then we realized that by putting up a new overhang, we were going to lose a lot of light in the kitchen — and that’s a big “no thank you” from us. So the question then became, “Where should the stairs stop?” Do we want to have a landing on the right? It’s a lot.

Here it is IRL:

This doorway/pathway issue wasn’t Yardzen’s problem, really. We (ARCIFORM and I) need to tackle it from an interior/exterior perspective. We’ve since come up with a much simpler solution that I’ll show you next week. But I wanted to flag that and explain it, in case you were wondering what was going on — it’s awkward, and we are on it.

WHAT WE LOVED: The mix of the pebble with the brick border, with the herringbone.
OUR NOTES: We are worried about the tripping hazard of the brick against the lawn so are going to set that down into the soil or flip the brick.


WHAT WE LOVE: The mix of the ferns and the climbers. It is going to be SO DREAMY.
OUR NOTES: Switch to a pink flower instead of white (as long as they are green year-round). 🙂


The reason that we are switching from the brick to a pea gravel path alongside the house is because the gravel element/material will be used throughout the property, in both patio areas and pathways (and larger gravel for the two-lane driveway). We love the herringbone aged brick for the kitchen patio. It’s going to be so classic, elevated, and gorgeous. But we’re not using it everywhere because a) it’s expensive, both in materials and labor, and b) we love the more rustic/casual vibe of the pea gravel (especially as we get closer to the alpacas and chickens). It’s so easy to take this property to the next level and make it like a fancy estate, but the experience that we want for our family is more casual and farm-y (which fits our budget better). So we’ll save money and get the vibe that we want.

Right now we are focusing on the area around the kitchen and the covered path, but I’m sure we’ll plant along the other older house as well.


WHAT WE LOVED: The intimacy and sense of a room that they created with the plants. The vibe is SO GOOD.
OUR NOTES: Fewer potted plants, just to keep it cleaner and simpler. So instead, we pitched them some window boxes — a look we’ve both loved but never had before (besides on the castle playhouse), although we are nervous about them staying maintained when it’s hot in the summer. Yardzen thinks it would be a lovely place to put an herb garden, which we agree with, so stay tuned on that.

OUR NOTES: More classic furniture — thinking about this table or this table, and these chairs or these chairs (but we might go rectangular – still TBD).


In case you are wondering where the barbecue is going and why we didn’t plumb it for natural gas, here are our thoughts:

1. A barbecue against a house would likely stain the white exterior walls.a
2. We think in the list of priorities a huge outdoor kitchen isn’t necessary, when the kitchen is right there (would be different if it were a hike to get the ketchup).
3. By not plumbing, we can float a barbecue in the patio (so as not to soot up the walls), and then we have flexibility on where to put it. I didn’t want Yardzen to design around a floating barbecue, so we left it off.

We decided not to hard-plumb it in, since we don’t know where it’s going to go and also because we are limiting our natural gas consumption. So we’ll continue to use a propane barbecue until the electric ones start getting better (they are slowly coming, y’all). Mostly we just want flexibility for now and to save money by not building a big outdoor kitchen that we might not use or need. Now, once we live in the property, we might find that we want an outdoor covered kitchen somewhere near the sports court, and so that might be something we consider, but without living there and knowing what we’ll truly use (versus what is just fun/fancy to have), we are not pulling any triggers.


WHAT WE LOVED: I liked the “random” heights of the plantings along the south side of the house (the exterior wall) with a nice up and down cadence.
OUR NOTES: We’d love more medium shrubs to break up the white and soften the lines of the large windows (which are so dreamy).

I can’t tell you how pleased we were with Version #1 of the design. Seeing the Yardzen renderings really solidified some ideas and challenged others — both an important part of the design process. The whole experience has been an absolute total joy and a fun relief from waiting for drywall to dry.


My Yardzen designer is finishing up implementing our notes into the final round of renderings, and our landscape contractor is finishing up another job before they jump on ours. We are working with a local design/build team that has worked with Yardzen a lot, and once we have the final plan, it will get implemented.

As you can see, the Yardzen team did an incredible job on Version #1. I’m very excited to see and publish post #2. So as a recap, here is what they are tweaking:

1. A solution to the off-center covered pathway and stairs (we’ve already sent them our ideas now that we figured it all out).
2. A more classic brick pattern for the patio floor. Something timeless, but still special.
3. Fewer potted plants, adding window boxes instead.
4. Tweak the variety, color, and style of the trees and plants along the side of the house.

The biggest takeaway for me is knowing the value of having a Yardzen designer take over the creative process, using their design expertise to create an accurate visualization for us — FROM AFAR. It can so clearly help any client, and it gives you the confidence that what you are doing is the right thing (or not). And mostly, it can add a burst of hope and joy into what is often an expensive and laborious renovation process. Actually seeing the potential in renderings, not just trying to imagine it, is magical. I can’t WAIT to see and show you the final version.


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122 thoughts on “Yardzen Review: Is It Really Possible To Design A Beautiful Yard Remotely?

  1. These renderings are amazing, Can’t wait to see how they are implemented IRL. It would be great if you could do a post with rendered plans against the finished project and talk about reasons for design changes, etc. So excited about watching the farm project come to life.

  2. Looks beautiful Emily! Farmhouse and MOTO design plans / mood boards / renderings always make me SO happy!

    I can totally relate about the property getting worse before it can get better, which is SO disheartening.
    I too am living in a mudpit after our foundation had to be fixed last fall. We lost our front porch, back deck, grass, and part of our fence. This post gives me hope!

  3. The plan looks beautiful!

    A note to you or your readers about pea gravel. Although inexpensive and charming, be aware that it is lightweight and not affixed/cemented in place. If you put it in an area with trees whose leaves drop in the fall, it is a little more labor intensive to maintain than other stone. If you rake or use a leaf blower, you are also raking up /blowing away the pea gravel.

    Looking forward to the implementation of the renderings!

    1. Yes. I have several pea gravel paths. And while I love them, the pea gravel does get everywhere. I’m assuming this is why the brick is raised, so it doesn’t end up in your grass. But there is a tamping process for pea gravel. Done with driveways for a harder surface. So this may be what is happening at the farm. Currently trying to decide what to do about my pea gravel problem.

      1. We have pea gravel that was poured on top of plastic honeycomb that keeps it largely in place BUT it still needs to be raked pretty regularly to remove leaves and now after 4 years we are needing to pull out weeds that have shallow roots. It’s probably an hour per month to maintain. I would be curious if Yardzen provided you with an expected maintenance estimate for their projects? That would be incredibly helpful when choosing what to install.

      2. Same, I love the look of pea gravel, and installed a bunch when we did our yard. I think out in the middle of a property where lawns weren’t getting mowed, etc. it works fine. It is so hard near a house/hard surfaces/grass. Don’t do it, you will be super bummed when you are sitting out there picking gravel from your grass or fearing the mower throwing the gravel everywhere (ouch!) It hurts bare feet, it gets stuck in the soles (the little cracks) of your shoes and also in your dogs paws, and then IT SCRATCHES YOUR BEAUTIFUL FLOORS!! We just replaced ours with pavers, had to refinish the deck (scratched up terribly) and will refinish our floors this summer. Don’t do it!

        1. I totally agree. Gravel paths are great in areas that don’t have much foot traffic, but with little kids and two boisterous dogs running around, there is that potential for it to migrate or to inflect injury to the dogs’ paws. I’d rethink.

      3. I really like the look of the pea gravel but definitely see the downside as noted above. the only other comment I have is that the paths seem really narrow.
        Otherwise the plan s a re beautiful. I love the covered walkway between houses!

    2. Yes, so lovely! You read my mind Pinny. You might want to consider other options for the pea gravel pathway with kids and large dogs I imagine the gravel will easily get flung into the grass and be the worst for mowing and clean up, then you have to replace/refill regularly. The open concrete pavers that allow for grass to grow through the can really look nice in the right setting. Also it is soft underfoot, can easily be mowed and raked, no need for an additional border to define the path it just kind of nonchalantly meanders into the lawn. Another bonus is that the combination of grass and concrete can be used as a sort of mud mat to scrape off your boots before you get inside, a hardscape boot scraper for fancy farmies 😉 Something to consider? Can’t wait to see your kitchen patio come to life!

    3. I live in New England, where gravel driveways and paths are the norm. If you use edging, I don’t find it that hard to maintain, but it does have to be topped up over time. Not a huge deal though.

      Sometimes my snow plower pushes the gravel into the yard, which is kind of annoying, but my lawn guy uses a tool to vacuum it out in the spring.

      Some people put down a layer of decomposed granite before the gravel, which makes it a little easier to walk on (rather than deep sand squishing around).

      1. Yes, what Amber says is true, if installed correctly, you shouldn’t have the gravel kicking around much, but do expect to top dress in the spring after rains. Do not just install pea gravel without any base prep or you will have an absolute mess!

        The way my company installs it is as follows:
        Excavate area 6” deep and install a perimeter header. Then install 3” deep compacted class II aggregate base rock, 1/4” square mesh galvanized hardware cloth (for gopher protection), filter fabric, 2” of decomposed granite (DG) compacted with natrucil stabilizer mixed in, then top dress with 1/4” angular path fines and compact into DG. The finished grade of gravel should be about 1/4” below the header.

        Pro tip: rounded gravel pebbles don’t compact well and will get displaced more than angular.

    4. As someone with a “touch” of OCD is spend an extensive amount of time picking me leaves and debris out of our pea gravel. Putting down flagstone or skate with pea gravel in-between would be much less messy

    5. And pea gravel gets Caught in the soles of your shoes. I have to change shoes whenever I go outside to ones with flat smooth soles. It’s a pain and kids won’t do that. Personally I’m not keen (but understand everyone’s tastes are different) on the very straight path down the side of the house. It seems tight and plant bed too narrow. Id’ introduce a curve to that path for a deeper bed. Soften up all those angles a bit.

      1. And there’s always decomposed granite for a similar but easier to care for look. Does DG work in the Pacific Northwest and all its rain?

  4. Help me understand why you are keeping the covered walkway? I know it gets rainy in the PNW, but the time actually spent using the walkway to get from car to house is minimal- when the weather is bad we hurry, when it’s nice we don’t want to be under cover. We just came off the snowiest April on record with 19 out of 30 days having either rain or snow so I get the weather aspect. To me a covered walkway says Formal and Fancy, while you’ve repeatedly said you want down to earth easy not formal etc. The elehant in the “room” is to MY mind the giant un necessary long covered walkway. Plants all along it only serves to emphasize IT rather than the house, and adds a huge visual element for not that much function. A brick walk way that doesn’t get muddy in the rain makes a ton of sense, but not the cover. I only see that here for public buildings or mansions, not farmhouses. Maybe it’s the cost of demo that holds you back? It would allow the yard to have breath and light if it was gone, but doesn’t add a lot of function by being there, that I can see. I don’t remember reading why you decided to keep it.

    1. The roof line of it makes it feel dark and heavy. Made sense when this was a group home or more publicly used space but not as a single family home

    2. Yes, I’m missing the function of that long, covered walkway as well. The photos and renderings show the driveway is very close to the back door/kitchen area. And, you’ve added that beautiful herringbone path connecting the two areas. Where will you actually be parking and bringing in groceries?
      I’d consider keeping the long covered walkway from the garage? to the house but remove the “L” shape that actually connects it to the house. Obviously, you have a team of architects that see the entire site plan and function of the area so I’m sure you have already thought of that.

      1. I agree with Susan and Christina about removing the “L” part of the walkway that connects to the house, it is awkward and obscures the light and sight line of the house.
        I also agree with Christina, Siel and Ingrid about keeping the long part of the covered walkway that connects to the garage or covered parking is practical and charming, especially with the flowering vines and other plants. 🙂
        An evergreen vine that you might want to consider is clematis armandii – it is a prolific white flowering vine, also available in a pink flower, “apple blossom” 🙂

        The Yardzen design is lovely, the cozy patio will be nice to use and see from the kitchen windows and the renderings are such a helpful visual!! It will be fun to see the upcoming post with Yardzen’s version two! 🙂


    3. Completely disagree! I think the covered walkway is incredibly charming, and I love the romantic flowers climbing on it. It doesn’t matter what a personal or a public house should look like. What matters most is what you like.

    4. I would definitely keep the covered walkway! It blurs the indoor/outdoor lines, offers a great framework for vines and landscaping, and (living in a rainy climate myself) I think it would be VERY helpful to extend outdoor time through all sorts of weather.

      1. I agree with having areas to “extend the outdoor time”, but nobody’s going to hang out in a walkway. It certainly looks charming in these renderings; I’m just not sure it makes sense??

    5. The pathway is charming and it’s a unique feature. If Emily remodels the second house it will be helpful t ok walk without an unbrella. I also imagine it will be helpful when taking the dogs outside. You can simply stay under while the dogs play.

    6. Another vote for removing the L part of the covered walkway – that way you keep the charm of the old walkway but eliminate the issue of how it connects to the kitchen door. Where it ends you could add a pretty pergola with vines growing on it and it could be like an entrance to the courtyard. I’d love to at least see what it would look like removed in a future post perhaps.

    7. Oh I’m team keep the walkway- particularly because it is original to the house!

    8. 100% agree with removing the roofline over the walkway, or at least replacing it with a covered pergola style instead of the current peaked roof on the entire walkway. Someone on here commented that it has a group home feel and I completely agree. It makes the house feel as though it was at one point a group home/ rehab center. Definitely not a farmhouse vibe. I’m actually really surprised that Arciform hasn’t advised you to get rid of it. Replacing it with a pergola with a hidden hard covering would still keep rain off but soften the whole look.

    9. As someone who lives in Portland, let me just tell you all that it rains like 9-10 months out of the year, I am not joking. The walkway just feels practical for where this house is. I think it would be a real challenge to move in between the houses or the house and the car without that covered walkway!

      1. Totally agree. Even if it was unaattactive I would definitely keep it so that an umbrella isn’t required every single time you step out the door. But it’s not going to be unattractive- it’s going to be so charming and pretty. And I don’t think it makes it look like a group home at all!

    10. It’s very ‘retirement home’ or ‘retreat’ to me where there are paying guests. To lighten the visual load, why not convert it into more of an open pergola structure and create a scented garden walkway instead? At the moment it does shriek ‘venue’!

    11. The covered walkway is a beautiful element in these renderings. Why on earth would anyone suggest getting rid of it? It’s SO cool!

  5. Curious about the cost of their services. These truly are dreamy and well done.

  6. Do you need the covered walkway? It seems like it has charm in the idea of it, but its actual form and function aren’t living up to the fantasy. (Also the roofline does detract from the pretty house facade and landscaping.) Maybe you can add a screened gazebo somewhere on the property instead. Have you considered getting rid of it altogether?

  7. So I’m a bit biased against Yardzen because of numerous complaints I have seen on online forums from their customers. But this plan is so not farmhouse-looking at all. Even if you change the brick pattern, it will still look too modern with the straight lines and right angles. I really loved your previous house’s landscape with the soft curves. I think your garden beds need softer curves. And with those small trees right beside the house, your beds need to be much wider than shown. I don’t think this plan will go well with the meadow landscape you are planning for the rest of the acreage. As for the ferns, will they do well in a west-facing location? Not liking all those pots either on the patio. I think you will be better off hiring local. You need someone to actually walk the property.

    1. I actually think the straight lines make sense because they echo the straight lines of the walkway and other elements. I wouldn’t do curves just for the sake of doing curves — they need to relate to the house. Cottage gardens are usually laid out in grids, so it’s possible for rectilinear shapes to look informal.

      But agree that the bed by the house seems narrow. You also don’t typically want to plant trees and shrubs that close to the foundation.

    2. Curves to me feel modern! I think straight lines that contrast with soft planting inside those lines feel farmhouse – either in the style of European formal gardens with hedges bordering the garden beds or cottage gardens. I think curves wouldn’t work at all.

  8. Im a bit confused. Is this the door that you will be using for entering into the house? Wont you be ushering the kids into the mudroom door instead of this one? If so, then having a covered walkway makes even less sense since it wont be used and people will get wet walking to the other door. I would have prioritized a walkway from the garage to the mudroom door.

    I also cant imagine that the view out the kitchen window is that pretty if you are looking at a long roof of the covered walkway.

    1. Ha! The mudroom is around the other side of the house. No one will ever use it! 95% of entry and exit will be through this door directly into the kitchen, given that this is where the driveway is.,m which will be fine. There will just be shoes by the door and hey will likely end up putting hooks somewhere by that kitchen door for coats.

  9. It looks gorgeous! One BIG note of caution — you really, really don’t want to plant trees that close to your foundation.

    1. Amen to that! That was my first thought, although large shrubs should be safe, and it looks like maybe they are thinking of large shrubs, but definitely research the roots of even the shrubs with them being on the house like that. Also, I love the idea of widening the beds, you will have less problems with shrubs and perennials covering your views then.

      I am a landscape designer, and I thought the renderings were beautiful. I do agree that to fit the house the paving pattern was a bit too modern, but kudos to the designer who made that paving pattern, because I’ve never seen it, so that means that they probably hand drew it which takes hours :).

      I agree with everyone’s gravel comments. I do see paths here in NE and IA that use 1/4″ pathway fines which here is made of limestone. It doesn’t get weeds, and it packs down pretty well, which means a little less wandering of the gravel. I don’t have it at home though, so I can’t talk about how hard it is to keep out of one’s house. Use the honeycomb geogrid, it will help.

      Herringbone is the strongest configuration of paver, it’s traditional and it good looking. When looking at the inspo pic my biggest thought was, do they get freeze thaw? because the plan ratio on that paver isn’t great… :). (That just means that it’s more likely to sink if the ground freezes and thaws a lot, because there isn’t enough friction between the pavers.) I think you can go with other paving patterns all in the same color to emphasize different areas and still have it be traditional.

  10. Beautiful renderings and it looks like a lovely spot! But please be careful in your gravel decision. We’ve had our Midwest farm for 12 years and chose gravel paths and patio for budgetary reasons. We did everything correctly: weed barriers, base, etc. but after a few years of weed seeds blowing, mud and dirty boots, weeds sprout everywhere. I spend many weekends on my hands and knees pulling weeds because we don’t want to use Round-up. We have to disc the driveway with the tractor monthly to get rid of the weeds and grass. Gravel is an excellent choice for dry climates like Los Angeles, Arizona and the south of France, but not for rainy places.

    1. Just a quick suggestion– we bought a house with gravel pathways in the backyard and have the same issues. Hubby makes a big batch of vinegar solution in a large garden sprayer and it takes care of the gravel weeds without any pesticides. (just Google vinegar weed killer)
      He does it maybe once a month at most in Spring & Summer when weeds are at their worst (we’re in the PNW).
      Hope that helps!

  11. I love that you can put pretty vines all along the covered walkway.
    The window box idea is so well suited to your house! I agree also hiring someone local would probably be beneficial for at least picking out the right plants and flowers.
    I also like the little hints of modern thrown into the farm vibe.

  12. This post is great and has me looking forward to spring – which definitely hasn’t “sprung” here in the Midwest 🙁
    In general I would LOVE to see more posts about garden design, layouts, materials, styles, etc. I have been struggling to find garden design blogs with inspirational photos! I’m looking less for veggie/plant care and more for the beautiful aesthetics I can use as inspiration for my backyard. Hopefully your team is as interested in this as I am!

  13. I haven’t walked the property and I don’t know if you are still planning on using the second house as a play space for the kids / office for EHD and so would be using the covered walkway a lot. But honestly, in the pictures it looks like an arm with a choke hold on the back of the house. It really pulls a lot of space away from an area that could be a very nice space directly outside your kitchen. I would pull it down based on the photos, but you are there almost daily and have the most insight. Good luck!

  14. Ooooh…..excitingggggg!!!
    I designed and did (with some big bloke physical help), the hardscaping and mini-woodlands of my front yard many years ago, as well as rewotking very old rose beds. I basically deep-dived the internet and bought a huge, amazing garden design book and naoped it all out on paper! I still have the piece of paper (tucked inside the book) and the actual garden came pretty close. The largest change to my plan was widening the reclaimed brick pathway. My Elm tree is ginormpus now and the woodlands is fat!!

    My 2 cent’s worth:
    🌱 Definitely do herringbone bricks. They look more spacious than basket weave.
    🌱 I’d steer clear of white flpwering trees or plants, because the house is white.
    You need contrast- pinks, blues, purples.
    🌱 I’d have taller, bushier shrubs outside so they ‘peek’ through the bottom height of the windows. You can always trim/prune bigger shrubs, but ya can’t stretch short ones.
    🌱 Window boxes – they’ll be up pretty high by the look of it, so herbs?!?
    I’d plant things that drape downwards (Fuschia? Hummingbirds!) and keep the herbs in pots on the ground!
    How will you pick them from up so high??? Whatever you plant in them, perhaps have them reticulated to avoid dying plants not bring watered?

    🌿 I’m really keen to see how you resolve the cover over the kitchen door steps – you’ll sooo want this covered to protect you from rain.
    🌿 Totally hanging out to learn about your veggie patches!

    I’m such a big gardener and sooo excited about this part!🤩

    Oh…BTW, you have repeated several paragraphs after “We love the herringbone aged brick for the kitchen patio. It’s going to be…” Oopsie!

    1. Great suggestion for more color vs white (though I LOVE white flowers). I would also suggest some warmer hued flowers– golden yellows & warm peaches. I’m also in the PNW and we already have a cool-toned backdrop most days. The warmth of more golden tones definitely help with the grey days.

      The design overall is beautiful but feels more Southern California than PNW farmhouse to me. I live in a well known agricultural valley in WA and.. yeah, this design feels way formal for your setting. Window boxes will definitely help!

    2. Great points Rusty. I’d be interested in knowing the name of this wondrous book of yours. It sounds just the sort of sounding board I need to kickstart my patch in East Gippsland! : )

      1. Jusg got put of my cozy warm bed to go cgeck the tutle for you 🤣🤣
        It covers everything!😁 xx

  15. I love how much plants can bring to a home. One thought I had was how linear some of the beds are. Adding some curves, especially into the lawn, could be a nice approach. Portland is a wonderful location for gardening (I live in often dry California). Are you planning on rhododendrons?

    1. Yeah, I was thinking Camelias as well, for flowering, taller shrubs (they don’t mind a prune evety now and then, too).

    2. I agree – some curves and more organic shapes along that long covered walkway would be amazing, add variety of depth, and give more opportunities for layering in the flowerbeds as well.

      1. Dissent here. No curves! Too generic and modern. Just have to speak up for the straight line;)

  16. Woof. A lot of people in your comments don’t like the covered pathway. I think it’s charming and adds character to a fairly simple farmhouse. I agree with the others warning against trees planted so close to the house/foundation. Overall, the plan looks really pretty. I like the mix of materials and paths. You seem like you know what you want, so you should follow your gut – you are the one who has to live with it, not us random internet people.

  17. Okay this looks GORGEOUS! I also love seeing the design process. I hired someone from Modsy to do some quick designs for me in my new house – furniture placement and colors, mostly – and it was really helpful. I can see how Yardzen could also work for us. I had been curious before and will definitely bookmark it now. LOVE all the ferns, climbing flowers, and potted flowers, even though you’re removing some.

  18. Thanks for sharing your kitchen yard project. Don’t “chicken out” on the random pattern, mixed material hardscape! It reads quirky, not modern, and elevates the exterior of the house in a way that is less formal than the herringbone brick. Even in the rendering there is an organic feel to it. So good and unexpected, and feels like it could have always been there. Also, have you considered solving the roof line issue by removing the covered walkway? It and the plantings around it are reading very institutional. My mind keeps photoshopping in orderlies pushing patients in wheelchairs. You and your family strike me as make a dash with an umbrella types. This walk way feels so heavy.

    1. Yes! The random brick hardscape could have the feel of being old and repaired/added to over the years.

  19. That patio looks fabulous! Suggest that you widen the beds along the house so you can plant stuff away from the siding b/c termites and carpenter ants. Then widen the pea gravel paths by at least a foot, maybe two feet. You want to walk beside someone, or push a wheelbarrow, without running into the shrubbery. And contain the pea gravel with a stable edge of some kind on both sides. Otherwise it gets into the grass and mowing becomes fraught with the chance of the blade throwing a rock into someone’s head or through a window. Lastly, think about MOSS. Choose your hardscape with an eye to how easy it is to pressure wash. We have to do this at least annually (in nearby Washington), and some surfaces are a lot easier to wash off than others. (Pebbled concrete is the worst, the absolute worst.)

  20. These images are beautiful! And after reading some of the comments, I like the covered walkway. It will be so romantic and special once all the growth matures! I do agree with being careful about trees too close to the house (even though they’re beautiful!). There are smaller footprint trees with deeper (vs wider) roots though, so I’m guessing Yardzen would consider that!

  21. Was the amount of water for irrigation taken into consideration? I know the PNW has gets a lot of rain in the
    winter, but not as as it used to. We have a similar size property fed by an irrigation canal, creek and pond, if we did not have this we would not have the yard that we do. Curious to know what the source of water is, if its city it is going to be expensive and if it is a well, you can run it dry in the hot summer months. The electricity also gets very expensive to run all the stations for the sprinklers.

    1. Maybe rain barrels too? They aren’t usually the best looking but maybe she can find nicer ones.

      1. We couldn’t find rain barrels we liked so we found some beautiful huge planter pots and sealed up the holes in the bottom-magic! We removed a couple of downspouts from our porch gutters (less roof flow) and have some pretty copper rain-chains that act as our downspouts into our rain barrels. Collected water can easily be hand pumped to any garden bed when needed.

      2. Interesting conversation. Maybe they need a cistern to capture rain in the winters to use for irrigation of plants in the summer?

    2. This region has a lot of rain, so why not get rainwater tanks installed to cut back on expensive town water usage? Then definitely set up an irrigation system. You won’t regret it, especially if you install a timer for when you’re away for an extended period of time. If you’re going to invest in landscaping, it makes sense to invest in a self-watering irrigation system at the same time.

  22. Not sure if I’m following the issue exactly with the stairs and door, but based on the renderings you could definitely make it work as is, plus be super cute, if you added planted pots to the stairs on the left side of the door. And while you certainly did not ask for requests, I would love to see more “we made it work” content on your site. I am currently in the midst of a lot of changes on my family’s farmhouse but our budget is “lets make things work and invest in external pieces” rather than structural investments. The stairs could be a prime example of “it wasn’t perfect but here are three things that we considered that would make them work as is.”

  23. Well this is fun. It makes me want to join right in. Let’s go shop for plants! One thing to consider: the flowers on most trees last for only a couple of weeks, so appealing leaves are way more important than the flowers. If I were choosing a tree for that inside corner, I would look for a Japanese maple with lacy purple leaves. And plant it in a big gorgeous pot, not scrunched into that narrow bed.

    1. Yes, I had the same thought (plus the trees are planted too close to the house.) If everything in my garden bloomed all together all the time it might look as nice as this rendering! For 4-season climates it would be nice to have a winter, spring, and summer picture.

    2. Yes to interesting/colorful leaves! A Japanese maple in that corner would be so lovely and fit right in with the PNW aesthetic (they grow so easily here). AND it would provide beautiful interest in the Fall and then once the leaves are gone in winter, would let additional light into the kitchen, super important in the dark days of a PNW winter.

    3. Yes! These flowering bushes will be bare branches in the winter, flowers for 3 weeks or so in the spring, then green with leaves during the rest of spring and summer. Maybe you need renderings for different seasons.

  24. I have pea gravel and live in the mid west so leaves are an issue. I solved it by buying a leaf blower that is also a leaf vacuum. It has 2 settings and the lower setting is perfect for getting the leaves but leaving behind the gravel. Hope that helps!

  25. These renderings are gorgeous. It’s going to be a fantastic patio.
    For the walkway, the roof material is just too heavy IMHO and the lines of the roof are not working with the house. I can’t wait to see what solutions you come up with!

  26. The renderings are beautiful. I’ve been wanting to reimagine the backyard and have seen yardzen advertised. I’m looking forward to learning more about their process and if you’d recommend them once you’re all set.

  27. So, I hate to bring up another issue because renderings are certainly pretty. Maybe I missed it, but is there no outdoor living area that’s covered? I’ve lived in two Oregon houses (in the valley, not far from Em), one where our outdoor living area was covered, and one where it wasn’t. We use that space infinitely more in the house where it’s covered. It’s nice to be able to sit outside, listen to the rain, OR not have the sun beating down on you in the summer when there’s zero rain. Again, maybe you’re covering this base elsewhere, but it seems to me that it’s a waste to put so much effort into covering a walkway, but having nowhere to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air when it’s rainy.

    1. I could be wrong, but I think there’s a covered deck or patio off the living room.

  28. Thank you for sharing your Yardzen experience! I am a landscape architect working for a landscape design build company in the SF Bay Area, and have often wondered how their services compare to ours. What package did you sign up for, and what will the final deliverables be? The 3D renderings are wonderful for helping clients visualize a space and to establish a landscape style, but not particularly useful for actually building the landscape. In fact, it leaves alot of detailing open to interpretation which is a problem if you are trying to compare multiple bids from contractors. It can also result in misunderstandings during construction with regard to expectations of finish details. Since you are a designer, I’m sure that won’t be an issue, but the average consumer might not know to look for that. For example, when I develop a paving plan, I am thinking about how the joints are laying out in relationship to adjacent site features and the size of pavers so that there is not a random sliver of pattern at the end. For planting plans, there is alot of value to working with a designer who knows local plants and has a relationship with local wholesale nurseries. Alot of landscape contractors know plants, but they usually don’t have the time to source specific varieties of plants and will often try to substitute with something that is readily available at Home Depot. Some contractors are also reluctant to suggest plants that are not “tried and true” because they are responsible for the warranty.
    Anyways, can’t wait to see the transformation!

    1. I used Yardzen about a year ago. In addition to the renderings, they deliver Hardscape and planting plans.

      I think their biggest limitation is that only one revision is included in the packages. I felt like I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, but they ended up adding in one more revision for me, because I felt like my feedback was not fully incorporated in the first revision.

      Also, they weren’t able to match me with a contractor in my area (which is awash with landscapers). This wasn’t a big deal to me, since I planned to implement it mostly myself over time, but worth considering if that’s important to you.

      1. I’ve been so tempted by Yardzen, it’s great to hear from a person who has used their service.

        1. I think it’s a great option. It’s just helpful to know their strengths/weaknesses.

  29. I love look #1 and excited to see the next iteration. But I don’t understand why people use gas grills. What’s wrong with a nice Weber? Team Charcoal!! I think the food always taste better when using natural lump charcoal.

  30. The planting scheme look amazing, though plantings so close to the foundation will likely stain the white foundations. I understand that the covered walkway adds a vertical element and cover from bad weather. But you may want to consider more practical solutions for this space, ones that would avoid the ‘roofline’ problem. First, you may need to install gutters on the covered walkway because the dripping water may damage the patio and plants. The covered walkway doesn’t offer protection from the sun or light rain when it might still be nice to sit outside. Why not consider some sort of small, cover for outdoor sitting? To create the vertical element, consider a pergola – it would support beautiful climber and lights.

  31. If you are tweaking planting along the side of the house consider widening that bed to allow a generous amount of space for shrubs so that they are not encroaching on the path too much. Also consider adding a bit of a curve to the the path by rounding out the shape of the bed a bit instead the narrow strip it is in the current plan. The whole straight line foundation planting bed thing can be a bit of a design cliche and does not necessarily suit your older home.

  32. Agree with some of the earlier comments about the walkway choking the yard, the trees being too close to the house, the planting beds being generally too narrow, and pea gravel being a pain in rainy climates. In addition, I think the window boxes are a terrible idea; they will mar your siding. Having potted plants means you can add a few at first and add more based on your interest – or even raised beds on wheels, though they’re not as charming visually. But please don’t do window boxes – they are meaningless in the back.

  33. Are you planning on doing any solar panels anywhere on the house or maybe on the covered pathway roofs? I know there’s a lot of discussion in the comments about keeping or losing the covered pathway. Maybe if it was generating electricity it wouldn’t be so controversial? (or maybe more so as a potential eyesore?)

    I agree with people who say don’t put trees too close to the foundation AND be wary of ferns and other foliage spilling over onto a narrow pathway and restricting your movements.

    One thing you could consider is putting trellises and climbing plants like clematis into the mix. Also, I didn’t see in the planting any seasonality to the plants. Will you have bulbs like daffodils and tulips for a spring burst of color? What will it look like in winter? or any other season?

  34. I just have to add!! I grew up with a gravel driveway (rough gravel, not pea geavel, admittedly) that was frequently used as a sidewalk. And let me tell you, even though I was walking on it barefoot from age 7 on (my feet healed from the initial cuts and scrapes lol), it was always uncomfortable. Flip flops didn’t help. Sneakers helped a little more. Heels were impossible and always got scuffed up. Even today, with my super rough, thick, and callused feet, I avoid gravel paths as much as possible. Your grass next to the gravel path will almost assuredly get stomped down instead… please just continue the brick pavers or something. 🙂 They’ll be much more comfortable and the grass will stay nice!!

  35. I’m curious if Yardzen included a plant list with their design? Perhaps your local contractor will have some input but I’d really encourage you to include some native plants in your plan. Native plants are really well adapted to the local environment and support the local foodweb so you’ll have lots of bees, butterflies and birds to enjoy. Here is a great article on why planting native matters: and one with ideas specifically for Oregon. Also, just like many environmental issues, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, just a few plants in the right direction can help. 🙂

    1. It’s so important! Native plants support our whole foodweb. Plus, they look the most special, because they give your home a sense of place. As soon as someone sees your landscape, they should think “Oregon.” Not “Cape Cod” or “Home Depot” (meaning no sense of place).
      I recognize a few of the plants in the rendering as native to Oregon (the “medium shrub” is a Ceanothus, gorgeous and easy choice!!) or readable as a species native to Oregon (“ferns” for instance could be one of many native ferns), but other’s definitely aren’t. You want at least 70% native, and i always calculate that by square foot. She has a lot of lawn. Conventional american lawns are ecologically terrible, but she could plant a native grass blend and, of course, not treat it with herbicides or pesticides– let it be a “country lawn.” Then the lawn can be beneficial, too.
      Anyway, yes, the plant list. She could ask someone to check it to see how much of it is native. Planting the right plants in the right place saves money short term and long term, and the planet desperately needs it.

      1. as a hort/garden nerd that works at a pnw nursery, I can assure you that the pics provided there are totally generic. Many would not work well in the space. To tell a customer they can put a ‘tree’ where they have them placed is just silly. Large shrub is what is pictured. This is just cut and paste random flower/plant pics in the colours she mentioned. What will happen is that either a landscaper will take the job and come to a nursery like mine and say ‘what do you have that is purple for near a patio??” OR the owners will have to take the plan and go do some shopping for themselves. Trust me. I see it ALL DAY LONG. If you leave your plant selection up to your ‘landscaper’ they just go for what they can find and what ever is shown to them at a plant nursery (some nurseries know their stuff, others don’t so much and just hire college students on summer jobs) and get in and out as fast as they can. time is money.

        1. and native for native’s sake is not always the best choice. Natives can be very ‘niche’ plants that don’t alway appreciate the different soils that end up near houses and in gardens. There are MANY wonderful non native shrubs that still provide a ton of biological value and take our climate in to consideration. 70% native is unlikely to meet her aesthetic needs in this case, but that does not mean the garden can not be a haven for native creatures, and people too.

  36. These renderings are so inspiring. I also love farm update days! I am also really curious if Yardzen’s design plans include measurements that contractors can use, and details like the exact size of pavers to use to fit the precise dimensions of your home.
    Also interesting to see so much debate about the covered pathway. I think it’s quirky.

  37. Emily …your plans and the final execution will be amazing. I’ve been gardening for over 30 years (in Wisconsin) and will advise you that while window boxes are absolutely gorgeous and do add so much color to your curb appeal…they are very high maintenance. Be ready to spend time every day taking care of them. Watering, deadheading, aeration of soil, trimming, etc. you have to love gardening and have the time to maintain window boxes. Gardening is my passion, but not everyone feels that way. Thought you should have a realistic expectation of what is involved with window boxes.

  38. I’d love to see you stick with the design values you’ve applied to the rest of your project to your landscaping (sustainable, carbon-friendly, planet-friendly) by incorporating lots and lots of native plants! I also would have liked to have seen you source plans from a local landscape design build company AND Yardzen so that you could compare their processes, services, and prices.

  39. The plan is just beautiful! Love it, especially the part that is under the long overhang. Please tell us that you are not going to install a large lawn in your yard. Water is scarce, even with the rain. There are a ton of natural plants that you can use to get a lawn-look instead of thirsty grass!

    1. Grass isn’t thirsty. Here in the UK we all have lawns and there’s no culture of sprinklers and all the other things American’s seem to do to lawns. Important to choose the right mix of grasses that are hardwearing and drought tolerant (depending on your climate).

      1. Here in Oregon it’s typical to have no rain from May to October. So, yes, grass has to have water put on it if you want it to stay green. There is no type of grass that that sails through the dry summer looking green.

        1. I dunno, man… I’m in Iowa. I’ve never watered any lawn and they’ve always been green, until they started to die around the end of Fall, which is just natural. Maybe they haven’t been ~golf green~, but they’ve been green with just the rainfall that comes. I just can’t imagine Iowa gets more rain than Oregon lol.

      2. it is totally different in the PNW. I live here, I have also gardened in the UK. Although both regions are roughly zone 8, gardening in each is totally different. We go for months with NO rain. It’s hard for those from the UK to imagine it. I have family there and am amazed at their green lawns!

      3. Jen, Oregon is a “summer dry” climate. While the annual precipitation might be similar to england, the grass will need regular water to stay green. It’s not natural for this climate.

  40. Would it be possible to do a glass roof like a green house for the transition? Or the whole covered path? Less visual weight but still functional?

  41. Please note the danger posed by many different ornamental grasses to dogs. Dogs with long/curly hair are especially at risk. Although many ornamental grasses are listed as non-toxic to dogs because eating the foliage is ok, the seed pods, called grass awns or foxtails, are dangerous. Many landscape designers are unaware of this.
    Article from American Kennel Club:
    Article from WebMD:

    1. Crazy!! We had tons of dogs and tons of foxtail and similar grasses and never had any problems. Scary to know.

  42. Can someone help identify that tree/shrub against the house in the rendering for me? It’s so gorgeous, I want one! It’s the one with dark green leaves, some white floofy flowers, and several thin, spindly stems.

    1. I feel like that is a made up shrub. I can’t imagine what it is supposed to be. You might get a sort of similar look from a multi stemmed camelia, perhaps a polyspora (if you could find one)
      or you could try growing a wax leaf privet into a small multi stemmed tree (they top out around 10-12 ft or so, but you can prune them however you like)

  43. The renderings really help to bring the concept to life and in that respect they are beautiful but I thought overall they were pretty uninspired and distracting with no place for your eye to settle. It looks rather builder grade.
    I completely get the need for the herringbone pathway for packages- so the delivery person doesn’t walk on your lawn! And the need for a covered walkway in the snow and rain but I do think the covered walkway makes the space a little too busy. Maybe you could put an alternative roofing material- like in a greenhouse- and that would also help for the walkway to dry more quickly if there was some light penetration down to the pavers below.
    That big white wall is a prime spot for some trellising and a climbing plant as well. That would also help to tie in the climbers on the covered walkway columns. In gardening, repetition of the same elements across multiple spaces helps to tie different areas together. It doesn’t have to be matchy-matchy, it just has to help the eye move and find symmetry and balance as well as giving the eye a place to settle.
    Match the width of the proposed gravel pathway to the plantings along the covered walkway so it doesn’t jag out, you’ll just be stepping on all that grass to clean out those fern beds and wearing down the grass there anyways.
    I would also consider switching from the gravel to large cement pavers with thyme planted in between the pavers. It’s very hardy, doesn’t break down and smells delicious when you step on it. There’s also a new company out there that does these ceramic tiles that look like bluestone which as we know is very farmhouse.
    Good luck!

  44. This is beautiful, but please, please, please select plants that are native to the area – you’ve expressed interest in sustainability and earth-friendly practices and really, it’s one of the more high-impact decisions you can make; plant your land with what belongs there so nature has something to work with – adapted plants without much maintenance and food sources for our much endangered animals and insects. The birds, bees and animals will thank you.

  45. count me in on NO COVERED WALKWAY!! i agree with all the other comments. i live in the PNW. UNNECESSARY!

  46. I see you’ve had a lot of comments regarding rain in the Pacific Northwest. Just one more issue related to that. You’re going to want to consider outdoor furniture that can shed water. Think a table and chair with slats for the rain to go through otherwise you’ll have to wipe it down every time you want to sit down! If you choose an upholstered chair you’re going to have to cover it and consider that you’ll be looking at covered furniture from inside your house all the time.

    1. Huge yes to this! We mistakenly bought a wood outdoor table and have to wipe it down every time we use it (not to mention how gross it’s gotten in just 2 rainy seasons of use). Our large deck isn’t covered so all the furniture has to be covered during the rainy months which is 5 months of the year in Northwest WA where I live. *sigh*
      Definitely not a pleasant sight all winter when you’re really looking for something pretty to rest your eyes on for those dark grey days.

  47. I so hope you keep that diagonal brick lay. It’s brilliant. You could tone it down by just using all the same color. Take a little risk, Emily. It will be worth it:). And window boxes? Break up that great white space? Sigh. Your house, your rules. xox

  48. I love your process. I once lived in an apartment with concrete under the kitchen window, and the way the light hit it all bounced up into the kitchen (which could be good or bad, depending on the amount/timing). I do wonder about keeping nice greenery to “soak up” some of the light. For me, it was blinding at times of the day to be in the kitchen. Of course, that was concrete, and perhaps the pavers will be different.

  49. My unpopular opinion: People plant their landscaping way too close to their houses. As a general rule, I like to keep smaller things about 3 feet away from the house & small trees like 10 ft…clearly Yardzen would disagree. I would be interested in hearing what Arciform has to say about this–watering so close to the foundation + potential root problems. How does one then maintain/paint the house in a few years?

  50. This is so cool! Garden design is really hard–just being able to see how the different plants will grow in is amazing. One idea: on the side of the house, in the big blank space between the two large windows, a trellis with a climbing rose or clematis would be gorgeous.

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