Asian-Inspired Backyard

A shaded backyard is redesigned into a private Asian oasis with landscape designer Michael Glassman's ingenuity.
Lush Border Garden With Asian Style

Lush Border Garden With Asian Style

Michael Glassman created the landscape design for this beautiful Asian-style garden, with a lush layering of trees, shrubs, flowers and stones.

By: Barbara Ballinger

Landscape designer Michael Glassman uses trial and error to find the perfect plants for this highly shaded California backyard. Once found, the landscape is transformed into an Asian-influenced outdoor retreat, full of varying textures, colors and heights.

Describe the homeowners' wishlist.

She wanted to incorporate Asian-inspired features and make the garden very simple, colorful and interesting — including architectural details.

Refined Asian Garden

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Lush Garden Oasis

A range of heights will draw the eye up and around the garden, including a mix of green textures for year-round delight.

Refined Plantings

Subtlety is another feature of most Asian gardens with a mix of flowering trees and shrubs and rocks, from small pebbles to big boulders.

Quiet Meditation

A meditation spot was tucked into a corner with a Buddha surrounded by bamboo rising vertically and pebbles running horizontally.

Stylish Privacy

Privacy from neighbors or a street may be critical, but be sure to make the fence compatible with the style of the garden and soften it with greenery.

Asian Influences

Rocks of varying sizes, an oversized Asian statue and a mix of textured plantings are essential components for an Zen-style garden.

What were the homeowners' design problems?

The shade of the existing plantings and the desire for greater privacy. There were existing oak trees and until they were pruned for more light, there were few choices that grew successfully. There also was a privacy problem since once the oaks were pruned for light; my clients were able to look right into the neighbors' yard. We experimented with different shade plants for texture and privacy and found that one choice of Japanese "fern pines" worked well.

What was your biggest obstacle in this space?

When you're working with a heavily shaded garden, you need to try different plants and see how well they do. Because of the intensity of shade from the oaks, there were so many dark areas, which made many plants not thrive. We kept trying more, and if they didn't work, we removed them.

How does the end result match up with your original vision?

We would remove plants that didn't do well, including a pine tree and replaced it with a bonsai. We learned to have greater patience when dealing with this kind of challenging landscape.

What lessons did you learn?

How gorgeous it turned out in the end. We learned that trial and error are often required, and also that the original solution might not be the final solution.

What are the "hidden gems"?

Take an area and create small focal points — Japanese lantern, different textural choices, a Japanese maple with dark red coloring and purple azaleas. Mixing colors, textures and heights can create a wonderful layering effect.

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Michael Glassman

Michael Glassman and Associates 733 56th Street Sacramento, CA 95819 916-736-2222