Tahoe Quarterly 2016 Mountain Home Award Winner

Designing an Outdoor Dream

Smart landscaping reinvigorates Squaw Valley property

Written and Photographed by Jennifer Schmidt


When an Olympic Valley homeowner (who prefers anonymity) came to Keri McCarron of Hill and Dale Landscapes to rebuild her yard, she envisioned evenings outside with a glass of wine, entertaining neighbors, playing lawn games with the kids and soaking in stunning views of the surrounding valley. What she had to work with, however, was much different—two separate properties bisected by a mosquito- infested drainage ditch and high-density pine trees that blocked the light. As if that weren’t enough, she also has a debilitating bee allergy.

McCarron had some ideas to create a cohesive, welcoming outdoor space.2016_TQ_Award_2


HDLEDIT _photo“We wanted to merge the two pieces of property together so they looked like one,” she says. “We used repetition of landscaping on both sides of the creek bed and we built a bridge that matched the arches of the windows so architecturally it balanced out with the house and connected the house with the other piece of property.” For defensible space purposes McCarron’s team removed some of the impenetrable trees, which simultaneously enhanced views of KT-22 and created a large lawn area. Beautiful granite benches flank the uphill edge of the lawn, inviting and backlit with soft foliage.2016_TQ_Award_5

2116_TQ_Award_6 “Because the property was on a big hillside... we wanted to use some of the natural rock in the area and create retaining walls out of it,” says McCarron. “I was inspired because she was going to have this big lawn area, so it would be fun to create those big love seat benches; it’s a retaining wall but also a useable retaining wall.”

The drainage ditch, no longer stagnant, now cheerfully flows through the property. McCarron cleaned it up and added accent lighting in and around the stream to highlight the bridge and the natural granite waterfalls. “We wanted to light up the arch of the bridge and the mature willows, aspens and the existing foliage that we built the water feature around, so at night you could get a real feel for a willow bush that had been there for years and years,” says McCarron. “ The water feature that was just installed had the opportunity to look like it had been there for a while and everything had grown in around it.”

For her client’s bee allergy, McCarron did some research and found that red is the color least likely to attract bees. She used foliage with a variety of textural greens, mixing in pops of red flowers for contrast.

Now the homeowner is able to entertain in comfort, whether it’s hosting gatherings for the Squaw Valley Ski Team or just inviting the neighbors over to play badminton on the lawn (via secret stone steps at the end of the lot). She’s even set up a projector and watched movies from the love seats. This is property is truly a masterpiece of the outdoor Tahoe lifestyle.

Merit Award: Landscape
Landscape architect: Hill and Dale Landscape
Square feet: 1,500
Year Completed: 2014