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We aren’t sure how many people are reading, so we may discontinue creating posts if we aren’t reaching enough people.

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If you follow and read Northland Design’s blog posts, please comment below. If we receive ample feedback in our comments, we may keep on keeping on.

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The Riverton Legacy Home was built onto the existing 1880 schoolhouse in Riverton, Utah. The Landscape Architecture around this lovely home was designed to show off some history while creating a comfortable family retreat.

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1. Warmth

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This is a rather famous plant used for medicine and food. The Ginko Biloba tree is also referred toas the Maidenhair tree. It is known as a living fossil due to similar fossils dating back over 150 million years ago. Its fan shaped leaves are one of a kind and turn a gorgeous yellow in the fall.

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In its youth the Ginko biloba is rather open and untidy looking. As it matures, the branching fills in
to provide a beautiful, full shade tree. A Ginko can reach mature heights of 50-80 feet. This tree is best planted where it has room to spread, such as a park or large yard. It will tolerate many climates and many different soil types, it is very adaptable (its been around millions of years, for heaven’s sake!).

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If you desire to have your own lovely specimen, be sure to purchase a male tree. The females drop
seeds which decompose and in the words of tree master Michael Dirr, “provide a rancid butter odor that is the scourge of the neighborhood.” Varieties ‘Golden Globe’ and ‘Autumn Gold’ are beautiful spreading forms.

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Landscape Architects are mysterious beings- but we’re trying not to be. Its a well-kept secret that LA’s (Landscape Architects) are involved in most of the spaces and places you visit. We create everything from the course where you golf, to the trail you hike, the plaza in your favorite shopping district, to the playground your child begs to go to. We love creating beautiful and functional spaces, all over the place. So, now you are in on the secret. You can look at the world through our eyes and know that someone thoughtfully designed one of those spaces you love.
You’re welcome.

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“It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function.”
-Louis Sullivan, 1896

The American architect, Louis Sullivan, is famous for moving architecture into a more ‘modern’ style. He believed that the exterior of a building should reflect the interior’s functions and uses. Over the years, his famous observation has been simplified to: ‘Form follows function.’

The following two images are lovely little likable locations where a need or a function was fulfille...

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American Fork Canyon by Aaron Wilson Photography

What a gorgeous picture! Isn’t it interesting that many of us leave our yards behind to go and see the beauty of nature? Why not create that natural beauty around you, in your own landscape? One of the best ways to accomplish this is by using plants that are native or adapted to your region.

Native plants are plants indigenous to the area in which you live. These plants have developed, occurred naturally, and/or existed for a long period of time in the same region. Here in the United States, we consider plants to be native if they were here before colonization. Adaptive plant species are non-native plants which perform well in the local climate. These could have been brought from anywhere in the world. (Occasionally this leads to the disasters we call ‘invasive species’ but that is a story for another day.) Here are a few of the reasons why you should consider using native or adapted plants:

~Native plants are easier to grow. They thrive in their native environments. Their biological structures are adapted to the soil conditions, harsh or unusual climates, altitude, etc.

~Intermountain West areas are dry. Plants that naturally grow here require low amounts of water. You will conserve irrigation water as you incorporate native plants. Water is a precious resource that we should carefully use and protect.

~Native plants contribute positively to the overall ecosystem. Plant life effects animal, insect, and other parts of our ecosystem. This, in turn, effects human populations.

~Lawn is overused and tiresome! Everybody has it! Native and adaptive plants can make each area unique and beautiful.

Have we convinced you yet that native plants are best? If not, here are a few of our favorites for the Intermountain Region. Their beauty is sure to win you over!

This is a very large tree, growing up to 100′ tall and 20-30′ wide. It has lovely green-blue needles. Their needles are softer and not painfully spiky like pines and spruces, earning them the endearing name ‘friendly fir’. The white fir requires soil that drains well and needs careful attention until it is established. Once mature, it requires supplemental irrigation. It doesn’t require pruning and does not tolerate over-watering. If you plant this gorgeous fir in your landscape give it plenty of space and good amounts of compost/organic matter in the soil.

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Blue Flax (Linum lewisii) photo by Carl Kirby

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Blue Flax (Linum lewisii)

Blue Flax is a very drought tolerant perennial flower. This plant showcases a stunning blue color, not often seen in nature. Due to its ‘airy’ look and self-sowing capabilities, Blue Flax is best planted in meadow gardens, as a background plant, or in dry rock gardens.

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Purple Sage (Salvia dorrii) Photo by Edgeplot

Purple Sage, also called Dorr Sage, can survive without irrigation, it looks good without pruning, and it has a nice aromatic minty smell…what more could you want in a plant?! This is a small shrub, at its highest growing 2 1/2′ tall with a 2-3′ width. We recommend you use this plant in your landscape as a display or accent plant or mix it in with larger groupings. Dorr Sage can also be used as a low hedge.

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Bigtooth Maple (Acer grandidentatum) fall color

If you’ve visited the canyons of Utah, this is the gorgeous plant that we see on the mountains in fall; it really stands out, making the hills look like they are on fire with brilliant reds and oranges. Bigtooth Maple is a small tree, 20-30′ tall and 20-25′ wide. You can prune it to have multiple trunks (making its appearance more like a large shrub) or a single trunk. Rocky Mountain Maple (Acer glabrum) is a near relative also found in our region.

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Bearberry (Arctostaphylos-uva-ursi)

Bearberry is an evergreen groundcovering shrub. You may have heard of it by its fun nick-name ‘Kinnikinnik’. Its dark green color coupled with its berries which turn red in fall/winter make it a lovely plant. In its native environment, it is the groundcover under coniferous forests and reflects that need in the landscape. Bearberry thrives in protected, somewhat shaded areas. Although Bearberry only grows up to 6″ in height it can spread 5-6′ wide! It grows fairly slowly and can be pruned to keep it in your defined areas. Also keep in mind that groundcovers are wonderful weed barriers.

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Creeping Oregon Grape (Mahonia repens)

Creeping Oregon Grape is another spreading evergreen. It grows to 1′ tall and gets 3-4′ wide. Creeping Oregon Grape has many faces and looks lovely in all its seasons. In the spring it has attractive yellow flowers, in fall you will see bluish-black berries, and in winter the leaves turn purple or red. It does well in sun or shade, though in full sun will require more water. By way of warning, the leaves are holly-like and have bristled tips so don’t plant this where children play!

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Great Basin Bristlecone (Pinus longaeva) Photography by HikerBob

An interesting fact about the Bristlecone Pine is that these trees can live for more than 4,000 years! Naturally, this plant is found at very high elevations on rocky mountain slopes. In the landscape, it has a high drought tolerance and grows very slowly. Bristlecone Pine should not be pruned and requires well-drained soils. It can grow 20-25′ tall and 15-20′ wide. The shape or form of this tree is unpredictable and irregular, especially as it ages. Bristlecone Pine would make a great showcase plant (go ahead, put it in the spotlight!) or look fantastic in a naturalized area. Rocky Mountain bristlecone (Pinus artistata) is a near relative with a more pyramidal form and may be more readily available at your local plant nursery.

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Red-Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

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Red-Osier Dogwood in Winter

This is one native plant in our list that is not as drought tolerant as the others. Its natural habitat is along stream-sides and therefore requires slightly more water. It is a lovely large shrub, 6-8′ tall and wide. With white flowers, white berries, red fall leaves, and red branches it will look beautiful year-round. We recommend this plant for hedges and background plantings. It tolerates sun or shade.

A great resource for learning more about native plants is your local Botanical or community gardens. Here in Utah County we designed the Central Utah Gardens, which showcases acres of beautiful plants for the Intermountain West. They offer free, educational courses to the public!

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Central Utah Gardens by Northland Design Group
There are so many beautiful native plants in the Intermountain area. Unfortunately, we cannot present all of them. Keep an eye on our Plant of Month posts for more of our favorite native or adapted species.

What are some of your favorite plants? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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With warm weather, often gatherings, parties, and meals move out-of-doors. Creating spaces where your friends and family can comfortably enjoy the outdoors means more memories to be made right in your own yard. The spaces you create within your own yard should be tailored to your family’s needs to maximize usefulness. To get those cogs turning:

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House Beautiful

Any garden can be transformed into a space for entertaining. By simply providing the right furniture, such as this solid wood table, you can create a lovely dining space in any garden. The unique transparent fencing surrounding the garden creates a vertical plane that helps the space feel more like a room. This is a perfect setting for a garden party, a casual dinner, or other less-formal affair.

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GQ

S’mores anyone? This neatly tucked-in stone wall is complete with a cantilevered “hanging” concrete bench to allow for cushions and seating.

Tip: Consider planning for day and night life. The gorgeous view of the mountains while you have daylight is contrasted with the rustic-cozy feel of a campfire after dark.
Tip: Plants are the frosting on the landscape cake! The designer left nature to her own devices, keeping the feel of the space natural and casual. You can acquire this look by leaving the plants in their natural state or by planting a mixture of grasses and wildflowers. The shorter grass in the seating and fireplace area could be a lower growing grass variety, or could be the same as the surrounding vegetation, but mowed to the shape the owner chooses.

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A pergola is a wonderful structure that can help create a sense of space to most yards. It can be created from a variety of materials to give you many different looks. Some of the materials commonly used in crafting a pergola are rot-resistant woods, vinyl, stone, and wrought iron (a.k.a. mild steel). In the picture above the columns appear to be made from concrete or stone while the beams are wood painted white. Growing vines (wisteria or honeysuckle are lovely) on your pergola will make the space feel even more intimate and enclosed. Also notice the up lighting that shines from the ground up the side of the columns for evening functionality and mood lighting.

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Bastian Residence by Northland Design

Perhaps all you are in need of is a place to sit; a place to enjoy company or a good book. Consider seating and the time of day you would most likely use the space. If you would use your outdoor sitting area during the heat of the day, consider shading it with trees or a built structure. The sitting area above is nice and open, perfect for lounging in the evening or on crisp fall days.

Tip: If you have neighbors living close consider creating a space that will give you the privacy you desire in your sitting area. You might want to locate your space in an area of the yard that is more secluded or you could create privacy with plantings, walls, outdoor fabric curtains, etc.

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Fowles Residence, Northland Design Group

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Scrabble

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Sandbox and Climbing Wall

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Outdoor Movie

The four spaces above all have one thing in common: FUN! Small children and adults all enjoy their fun. Whether you prefer bocce ball, basketball, swimming/hot tubing, movie watching, or digging in some sand, any element of fun could be included in your landscape.

Tip: Making the decision is the toughest part. What are your interests in the ‘fun’ category? How often do you participate in it? If it is several times a month then it would certainly be worth your while to make the fun you enjoy accessible to yourself and your family on your own property.

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Fowles Residence, Northland Design Group

As humans, some of us eat to live while others live to eat! Whichever you are, food eaten outside tastes better. Eating a meal in your yard with family and friends can be done on a picnic blanket, at a built-in bar, on a table, sitting on walls or benches, etc. Fire pits, barbecues, and outdoor ovens are some of the ways people enjoy cooking outside. Or you may want to cook indoors and have a cozy spot for enjoying your meal outside when its done. Consider what site elements will make your eating space attractive and comfortable as you plan for creating entertaining spaces within your yard.

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Viburnum plicatum

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Perhaps you have noticed this plant in your neighbor’s yard or somewhere else around your neighborhood. This special Viburnum is in full bloom right now where its white carnation-like flowers will bloom for up to 3 weeks. If you are considering adding this lovely plant to your landscape carefully consider if you have the space for it. We have also seen the snowball Viburnum pruned to look like a tree rather than a great mounding shrub.

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Type: Deciduous
Zones: 5-8
Height x Width: 15 x 10
Sun: Full Sun-Partial Shade
Water: Average
Bloom time: Spring
Bloom color: White
Fruit: Red drupes ripen to black
Fall Color: reddish purple
Wildlife: Used for cover and provides food for birds, butterflies, bees.
Special Notes: There are many varieties of Viburnum plicatum, each with slightly varying characteristics. Viburnum plicatum variety tomentosum is a popular variety for its beauty as well as its slightly smaller dimensions: 6’ height by 10’ width.

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It’s often the details in a design that stand out against everything else. Details allow us as landscape architects to conceal the utilitarian aspects of a design, celebrate superb craftsmanship and incorporate personal design elements.

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Fowles Residence by Northland Design Group

Sometimes the beauty of a design lies in what you don’t see, like this cleverly designed irrigation line that is hidden underneath the pot.

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Fowles Residence by Northland Design Group

Or this rain chain that looks more like sculpture than a gutter.

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Fowles Residence by Northland Design Group

Or in the thought that went into design and construction for materials to seamlessly blend together.

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Fowles Residence by Northland Design Group

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Fowles Residence by Northland Design Group

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Fowles Residence by Northland Design Group

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Fowles Residence by Northland Design Group

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Paying special attention to lighting can do double duty by highlighting details and being a unique detail in itself.

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Camarata Residence by Northland Design Group

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Fowles Residence by Northland Design Group

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Fowles Residence by Northland Design Group

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Cool October nights are perfect for relaxing outside, savoring the last nights of summer and enjoying the warmth of a beautifully designed fire. The possibilities for incorporating fire into your garden design are endless!
Here are few of our favorites:

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