White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas. The quiet residential street lined with modest homes doesn't seem to hide anything extraordinary. But the owner-designed landscape is quite remarkable. The plant list includes nearly 100 different varieties of groundcovers, grasses, perennials, vines, shrubs and trees growing on a little over 1/2 acre lot. That such a small landscape could include so many plants in a coherent design seems practically impossible. But the homeowner is David Rolston, a prominent Landscape Architect in Dallas.
I met Dave and toured his garden during the 2009 Dallas Tour of Homes. The clean lines of the house and the street-side landscape, as well-conceived as they are, did not prepare me for the special place created behind the garden wall.
The 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath home was built in 1948 and honored as a Better Homes and Gardens House Of The Year. After a house fire in 2006, it was remodeled by Architect Jim Manning to make it appear much larger with generous open spaces and an expansive view to the garden.
A small lot usually invites unwanted visual incursion from neighboring properties, but Rolston has created a private glade for family and friends to enjoy. An imaginative collection trees and shrubs screen the outdoor living area from view without crowding available space for relaxing and entertaining. At the same time, the screening provides lovely backdrops for an abundance of carefully selected ornamental grasses and perennials. Even utilitarian corners are appropriately obscured, as with this bamboo screen.
In time-honored tradition, the garden is arranged into free-form rooms with water features, alcoves, and seating areas joined by paths and vistas. A grassy stairway leads downward to a welcoming entertainment area warmed by a fire pit.
Rolston is very conservation conscious, and his design reflects it. Not easily seen from the ground, he designed a tiny lawn in the form of a "green roof" sheltering the screened porch, providing a place for relaxation and play. By minimizing lawn areas and substituting ground covers such as Mondo (Ophiopogon japonicus), he reduced mowing maintenance. Taking advantage of the slope of the landscape, he created a catch basin at the end of the entertainment area to retrieve run-off and recycle it for irrigation. The gravel drive and parking area allows rainfall to percolate downward. He is also careful to use native ornamental plants where appropriate.
Dave is an artist at heart, as his use of beautiful objects, form, color and texture demonstrates. Each season brings a new delight. Autumn, for example, is resplendent with fall-blooming perennials, grasses and Japanese maples.
Too often, landscape architects wish to impose their own visions upon their clients' landscapes. Not so with Rolston's firm. An affable fellow, Dave makes friends easily. Consequently, meeting his clients' needs and tastes is his goal. As he says himself, One of the things I most enjoy is learning about what a person likes and who they are as people…then finding coherent ways to express that in the landscape…
As he wishes for his clients, he wishes for himself. Clearly, the garden at 7206 Tokalon is an expression of David Rolston's congeniality, hospitality, and love of gardening.
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