Landscape designer has eye for yards

Most of us when we consider developing a landscape are happy with trees, shrubs and lawns. But not Amy Zeldenrust of Avant Gardener. Her yard has garden art, statues, painted walls, mirrors, bird feeders, a curving pathway and unusual containers she’s picked up over the years. It’s inviting, causes excitement and is pleasing to the eye.

Zeldenrust is a landscape designer who won an award from SNWA Landscape Awards contest. Last year’s SNWA calendar had three pictures of her landscapes in it.

Zeldenrust has a small corner lot covered with succulents and evergreens. She estimates there are more than 200 different plants growing in the ground, pots, hanging baskets and even in discarded 20-inch-wide blue water pipes she found leftover from SNWA’s installation of a major water line.

These pipes jumped out at me. Zeldenrust placed these pipes at varying heights to add to her impressive landscape. She used them to hide her hose bib and anti-siphon valve. Her succulents looked happy spilling over the pipes’ walls and curving back up to harvest more sunlight.

With all her plants, you’d think it would be a watering nightmare, but not with this designer. “I only water every two to three weeks but only if the soil feels dry.”

She mulches her landscape with a thick layer of tree trimmings. I scraped the mulch back and found rich black soil explaining why her plants are in such good shape.

To expand her small yard, she hung mirrors along the wall facing the street. You get the feeling her landscape extends out into the street. “I’ve had people, not realizing they were looking at mirrors, attempt to walk into the space,” Zeldenrust said.

“If you plan to use mirrors, make sure you have an attractive background for the mirrors to reflect,” Zeldenrust said. “My first attempt had mirrors reflecting off my air-conditioning unit. I had to do some rearranging.” Her mirrors are about 3 feet wide and about 8 feet long lying on their side.

Her meandering flagstone path always keeps you wanting to see what’s next. She had created some interesting patterns when fitting the flagstone together.

“I didn’t want to use blah cement,” she said.

The designer painted her walls to further enlarge her landscape. She finds dark paint, such as purple, creates shadows for that inflated feeling.

“Dark colors behind plants make them really pop out,” she said.

The manipulator painted her back wall mid-olive green. This gives the illusion her plants are a darker green so they become more noticeable.

Every now and then I found crystal balls sitting in ornamental grasses. The sun glistens off the balls, sending rays of light across the yard. “Once the magnifying glass chard some frayed wood so I relocated the balls so they didn’t cause a fire.”

She finds hanging plaques on walls draws attention. One led me to a wall extending out from the back wall. It was plastered with the ever-beautiful fig-leafed vine creating interesting patterns as it spread.

I just had to peek over the wall and sure enough, she was hiding her barbecue unit.

“It was always a distraction so we built a stub wall around it so it didn’t divert from our landscape,” she said.

As I was gazing on the landscape, I heard water trickling. I looked down into a small koi fishpond. It was a cold day so the fish were protecting themselves.

Zeldenrust has statues and containers sitting on pedestals throughout her yard. She uses them to make natural transitions from one area to the next. The containers have succulents spilling over their walls, adding even more interest to the view.

Just about every plant in her landscape is evergreen. “I like to use succulents because they are so easy to care for.”

Ornamental grasses add so much to her landscape.

“I love the golden brown autumn colored leaves during the winter. When I see new growth emerging, it’s telling me to prune,” she said.

As you make your way along the path, she has areas with table and chairs inviting you to sit and enjoy.

The first is under a towering olive tree, the next is in front of her mirrors and another is next to the koi pond where you enjoy the benefits of the painted walls.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at or call him at 526-1495.

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