Natural landscaping in mountain yards |

Natural landscaping in mountain yards

Special to the daily: Katie Girtman
Large, mature trees are common in Summit backyards. 530 Whispering Pines Circle
Katie Girtman |

PRO TIP: Trees help blend large amenities, like hot tubs, into the environment around them. Rock walls are also added for a seamless, natural look to outdoor spaces.

The beauty of the mountains is right out the front door of most homes in Summit County, so it’s not too common to see clean-cut grass lawns in this area.

“We see very few true grassy lawns in this alpine environment,” said Laurie Williams, associate broker for RE/MAX Properties of the Summit. “Because so many of the homes in Summit County are second homes, owners often opt for low-maintenance landscaping.”

If you do want to implement living landscaping in the mountains, it’s absolutely possible — it just takes maintenance, care and, if you don’t live here in the summer months, it takes money to hire someone else to take care of it for you.

“Some people are still doing perennials and annuals, but gardens take more maintenance and upkeep throughout the year, and more water,” said Arnie Surdyk, president of Double Diamond Property and Construction out of Breckenridge. “We have so much sun and hardly any humidity, so keeping up foliage like that is water- and time-intensive.

The Fairways at Breckenridge is an example of a housing development with well-groomed lawns, but many residents and second-home owners are happy to get away to the mountains and enjoy the natural surroundings here.

Xeriscaping is a landscaping and gardening method that’s often used in regions like Colorado with limited water resources. It is meant to eliminate or reduce the need for supplemental water.

“So many people are environmentally conscious and prefer to use natural elements, such as rocks, wildflowers and indigenous trees to save on water,” Williams explained.

There is, however, no longer a ban on water features, and Surdyk said they are popular outdoor elements with the homes he builds.

“They have been back for a few years and are being put in a lot,” he said. “Especially the homes with a lot of road noise, to help minimize it.”

Unlike states like California and cities like Denver, Summit County does have access to a lot of water, explained Surdyk.

“Fortunately where we are, we don’t have the extreme droughts other places have,” he said. “We are right by the (Continental) Divide, so we get tons of snow, and we get the runoff from Hoosier Pass, so we do have good water sources.”

Embrace natural elements

For most mountain homeowners, the outdoor lifestyle is often a big part of how a home feels. Williams said many luxury homes are on a hillside, and terracing with natural stone to create several levels of flowered gardens and features like an augmented hot tub area, make for a soothing, beautiful and restorative ambiance.

“Splashes of brilliant colors with poppies, daffodils, Alpen roses, lupine, columbine and other mountain flowers bring interest to the landscaping,” she said.

Native trees, like spruce, evergreen and aspen, are popular outside of homes in Summit. Since the pine beetle infestation has thinned out trees naturally, homeowners are now putting in some fresh new growth.

“Aspens are kind of defensible trees against fire,” Surdyk said, “so people have been encouraged to plant aspens if they want trees that help with fire danger and that won’t blow over on your house.”

Trees are often planted around hot tubs to help blend the large amenities into the environment around them. Rock walls are also being added around hot tubs to create more of a seamless, natural look to outdoor spaces.

The backside of homes generally have more serenity than the front side, so this is commonly where a landscaping style that pairs with outdoor living comes into play.

“Typically, hot tubs are in the backyard, along with outdoor fireplaces,” shared Williams, “and thus the spot in which folks tend to recreate and enjoy the visual splendor of mountain gardens.”

Wherever people spend the most time — whether it’s in the front of the house or the back — is where they will put more money and effort into landscaping, explained Surdyk.

Areas with more sun, or mountain views, or serenity — whatever elements are most attractive to a homeowner — are going to be the focal points of outdoor attention.

“Everyone wants a nice appearance as you approach the house, so they will never abandon that area,” he said, “but where people spend most of their time is where you will see the most landscaping.”

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