How to Design Outdoor Rooms to Draw You In
Landscape designer Wesley Rouse offers ideas for creating cozy exterior spaces around stone patios and paths.
Synopsis: In this interview with Inspired House, veteran landscape designer Wesley Rouse tells how he transformed his property from wild meadows and fields to a series of inviting garden rooms. Rouse offers tips for the self-taught garden designer and suggestions for designing a garden that appeals to the senses of smell, sound, sight, touch, and taste.
With a background in plant science and extension education, Wesley Rouse has been creating gardens and growing specialty plants for almost a quarter century. Today he is the owner of Pine Meadow Gardens, a design/build landscape firm in Southbury, Conn. Rouse talked to Inspired House about how he transformed his property from wild meadows and fields to a series of inviting garden rooms.
Your landscape is mature and lush. How has it evolved?
Spaces have a way of growing out of how you use the land. When I bought this house 35 years ago, the land around it was a tangle of forsythia, multiflora rose, autumn olive, and overgrown pastureland. I didn’t have an overall plan to begin with, so I started clearing little by little. I added the screened porch and some terraces. Then came a larger addition to the house, which created a protected area that became the outdoor dining room.
The other two outdoor rooms grew up around entries. The backdoor area with its fieldstone patio and wooden benches was created by changing the grade of a slope, which came right down to the back door, and adding a retaining wall. This area is filled with shrubs, perennials, and many potted plants.
The other outdoor seating area is outside my office, which opens onto a small bluestone patio bordered by a stone wall and a boxwood hedge that loop around a wrought-iron bench. This garden room is tucked away, so it feels private and sheltered, even though it’s right outside the busiest room in the house. This area is also a function of grade. Terraced beds lead up to the main entrance to the house.
People are often advised to live with a space for a while before changing it.
Yes, it’s true. Unless you’re really experienced, it’s a good idea to allow some time to figure out traffic patterns and be sure of what you need for the way you live. If you have big cocktail parties or family gatherings, you’d want larger spaces. Or you may want a big space for special occasions and a small space for intimate gatherings.
Living with your space will also allow you to become familiar with the light patterns throughout the year— when you want to be in the sun and when you don’t. Sometimes you don’t have a choice, and then you know you’ll have to plant trees or shrubs or build an arbor or pergola for sun protection.
For more photos and ten tips for self-taught garden designers, click the View PDF button below.