An Evanston family transforms a poorly defined, overgrown front yard into a seamless extension of their mid-century modern home

After spending many years in Tucson, our Evanston clients gained an appreciation for the architectural aspect of landscape design and xeriscaping principles (landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation). The Robinsons wanted to bring that aesthetic to their new home while achieving a low-water landscape as opposed to a traditional lawn.

The front yard before the Greenwise renovation.

They were interested in solving several issues:  the front lawn had been poorly defined with patchy areas, the overgrown junipers were blocking the front windows, and the badly damaged concrete path to their home was hazardous in the winter with ice buildup.

The entry way before the Greenwise renovation.

After moving in, the Robinsons lived with their yard for about 6 months and then decided it was time to create an outdoor space that matched their personal aesthetic and the feel of their mid-century home. They chose Greenwise after seeing some examples of our work and because they liked our organic, sustainable philosophy.

The Robinsons were always interested in planting sedge in their lawn rather than growing traditional grass, but hadn’t budgeted for it. Sandro Nandiko, their Greenwise landscape designer, helped devise a plan and a budget, enabling them to plant the sedge along with other native plantings.

Sedge are drought tolerant grass-like plants that are easy to grow and practically maintenance free. In the front yard, the sedge moves fluidly with the breeze, mimicking Lake Michigan and creating a beautiful landscape.

Flowing sedge mimics the waves of Lake Michigan with native flowers interspersed

“We love it. We love the low maintenance of our garden and the habitat it creates. From our living room window, we watch the butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, chipmunks, and skunks. Yesterday, I could see the tail of a skunk skirting through the sedge, and I just love that we can provide a habitat for these animals and pollinators, and I enjoy walking down the path and being surrounded by plants,” said Jay Robinson.

Because their pathway was in disrepair and dangerous in the winter due to ice build-up, Greenwise removed it and installed a zig-zag white cement pathway. The angles work well with the mid-century vibe and create wonderful spaces for the plants to grow into.

Sandro’s plan filled the entry way with sculpted boxwood mounds that flanked the walk in bluestone chip beds with pockets of colorful dwarf phlox, thyme, Heuchera and rattlesnake master. Jay built the three flower boxes that sit in the beds giving them a dedicated place for annuals.

To create a stunning entry way, the Robinsons replaced the existing stoop and masonry wall as they had begun to deteriorate. The new stoop had quite a deep step off to grade, so Greenwise added the cedar timber planter as a buffer and a way to have a tidy bed for specimen plants.

Sandro stops by the Robinson’s every few weeks on his way to work and his daughter’s school, checking in with them on how the garden is behaving, and letting them know if he notices anything that needs attention.

“Jay and Kendra were going for a contemporary twist on plant-focused mid-century modern.  The dominating geometry of the concrete walk is softened by the perennials it is embedded in, and a variety of scents, colors, and textures meet the eye when you walk up to the front door.  There is always something interesting to look at.  Behold the rattlesnake master in the raised bed, for example! This plant has so much character. It delivers height and bold contrast to the more formal context of sculpted boxwoods and thyme on bluestone chips,” Sandro said.

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