Whether you live in the local mountain community year round or visit your Mountain Retreat seasonally, a properly landscaped, fire safe yard, can add to your enjoyment. Depending on the architecture of your home, the snow and harsh conditions dictate specific hardscape materials, as well as a local plant palette designed with defensible space as per the local fire authority codes. The mountain garden must look natural and reflect the characteristics of the surrounding habitat. The use of organic, free form shapes for patios and walkways is important. Your mountain cabin or home will be located at a specific elevations that displays different plant communities. For example, the terrestrial vegetation communities in Southern California include Chaparral, Sage Scrub, Oak Woodland or Savannah, Desert Montane, Riparian Forests, and the Montane Forest occurring at the highest elevations. These habitats dictate the type of plants you should use.
Mountain Retreat Elements: Your outdoor mountain garden, the open area around your home, is often a seasonal experience for you and your family, depending on your elevation as it pertains to snowfall. Even if your yard is covered with snow certain times of the year, adding a water feature, rock seat walls, or a multi-tiered composite deck completes the yard. A natural-shaped swimming pool with rocks (see Rock Pool & Grotto), or a spa can be a rewarding addition to your cabin or rustic home. The mainstay of mountain homes is the wood composite deck. These extensions of your indoor living area do not have to be rectangular or square. Simply adding a curved radius as a “look-out point” or view landing, can add an interesting focal point to your patio and entertainment area. Some type of water feature, from a simple wall fountain to an elaborate pond system with a cascading stream system, adds visual and audio pleasure to your rustic environment. A simple dry stream bed adds drama and interest to the sloped areas around your Mountain Retreat.
Mountain Retreat Plants: Keep in mind, mountain native plants are drought tolerant, adapting for millions of years on less than twenty inches of rainfall a year. Instead of me attempting to describe an array of native trees and shrubs for each elevation zone, a visit to your local nursery will let you know what plants do well in your home’s area. Assuming that your mountain home sits in an area surrounded by vegetation, a minimum plant palette is best. If you are located in a more desert or limited vegetation area, more plants in your yard might be appropriate.