Landscaping Made Easy

A Kidney for Your Yard?

The “kidney” shape is a simple, yet elegant design.
Mike Dooley, January 2018

In the past, many landscape designs were constructed using the basic “foundation planting.” These styles created a curved or straight bed along the house and many times lined the front sidewalk of a front yard design.

In the back yard, a perimeter fence or wall was used as the backdrop for planting beds. Once the beds were designed, the rest was simply laid out with grass.

Large areas of grass are no longer prevalently included in yard designs due to two factors: water conservation and maintenance. What to do with all this formerly-grassed space is now a continuously recurring problem for many landscapers.

In my design process, the question is no longer, “Where among the grass are the planting beds going to be?” I now shift my focus to, “Where among the planting space is the small grass area going to be?”

Many homeowners envision their grass design in terms of circles and squares. Others might try walking on the creative side and draw up a dizzying array of maze-like patterns. I gravitate toward one elegantly shaped “island” versatile enough to be compatible in most cases while still being able to integrate into a beautifully intricate design.

The simplest shaped “island” to work with is the “kidney” which can consist of grass or just a “negative space” of gravel, mulch or crusher fines (without plants).

If you want to retain some grass without having too much, simply arrange the “kidney” so that it’s easily seen from your main viewpoint. This will give you the visible grass feature you desire whilst significantly cutting down on water maintenance. Now that you have this centerpiece, you can border it with a path leading to a cul-de-sac focal point.

Use a bench, pottery, boulders or whatever uniquely marks your style to draw the eye. You can choose to have the curved paths connect to the patio, driveway, front door or side gates. The rest of the area is yours to plant freely.

Mike Dooley is the designer and owner of Dooley Landscape Designs. Visit his website at


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Something to sell?
Place your ad right now —
It's free and easy!
Write a headline
Write an ad

Current Issue Click to view