04 Mar


When I start to think about how to approach a project, I always consider the health, safety, and welfare of the intended user first. Then, I put my designer hat on and ask myself the following questions:

  • What are the restrictions? 
  • What is the budget? 
  • What is the look my client is trying to achieve?



In this case, the client was me. When I started designing my backyard, I didn't have a specific look in mind, but I wanted to create a happy space. The existing yard was overgrown and full of failed stacked rip-rap concrete retaining walls. Some walls had fallen, some had shrubs growing out of them, and some were heaving from the lack of drainage. I wanted to preserve two existing large Bradford Pear trees. They are beautiful and healthy, and they deserved to be the centerpiece of the backyard. We were also dealing with elevation changes from the back of the house to the back of the property, and we needed to be aware of water issues.

 My top three concerns were: 

  1. Preserving the trees.
  2. Replacing the retaining walls.
  3. Dealing with grading to prevent water from coming into the house from the grade change.

                                      Grass Steps at The Mount

 One of my favorite landscape designers is Edith Wharton. Wharton was a prolific writer, author of such classics as "The Age of Innocence," "Ethan Frome," and "The House of Mirth." She was also a talented landscape designer, and her home, The Mount, is a testament to her skill. One of my favorite features of The Mount is the grass steps. I love the simplicity of them and how they are a significant part of the hillside without being in your face with hardscape. I researched a couple of different ways to construct the steps and settled on using rigid geogrid as a base material to form the steps, infill with soil, add drainage, and sod. 

The process to retain earth was so simple and made such a big impact. The result is a fluffy conversation spot in your garden that also acts as a retaining wall and a water filtration system.

 I love how they retain the earth and do not distract from the other features in the backyard. I have to say grass steps are a definite favorite feature in my backyard landscape architecture. 

If you are looking for a simple and elegant way to improve your backyard, I highly recommend considering grass steps. They are a great way to add interest, functionality, and beauty to your outdoor space.



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