In Salt Lake City, a team of landscaping pros transforms a tricky lot into a flowing garden that is as productive as it is pretty.
Mere blocks from Salt Lake’s 9th and 9th district sits a historic barn-style home fronting a flourishing secret out back: a sloped, half-acre english-style garden rich with modern twists and engaging spaces.
The property’s landscape project began in 2020, after several years of renovations to its 1922 home by homeowners Brittan Browning and her husband. With the house revamp complete, Browning tapped landscape architect Seth Bockholt to transform her overgrown garden into a functional Eden, maximizing the use of every inch of space to help her business, Gilmer Farms, to thrive. Browning relies on flower beds, raised planters and a potager garden to produce cut flowers and fruit for jams, all sold through Gilmer Farms to customers who relish these simpler things in life.
Behind the home, Bockholt created an oasis of interconnected gardens, paths and surprising destinations at every turn. He began by establishing sightlines that guide the eye through the garden, making the backyard feel larger than its half-acre reality. “Throughout the design, the existing trees act as primary visual cues that inform the procession through each pathway,” says Bockholt, who was determined to avoid straight lines. “This design is more about feng shui and natural balance than perfect alignments and geography.”
As part of that natural balance, Bockholt employed touches of biophilic design, or design inspired by natural forms, throughout the landscape. “In this case, we were inspired by the spirals and waves of the nautilus shell,” Bockholt says. “Both patios are rounded shapes to reflect that form, and we used curved steel ribbons as retaining walls to keep the design really soft and flowing.”
That easy flow continues through a composition of paths leading visitors to a number of unique features. Crossing over tiny bridges and spans of lawn, a curving path lures visitors to the bottom of the sloped property, where a greenhouse and potager garden are filled to the brim with seedlings. In the lower corner, a custom duck shelter nestles among raised planting beds. Across the yard, secluded benches entice wanderers to sit and enjoy the serene sounds of water moving through a wooden aqueduct and water wheel.
This aqueduct was just one method of tackling the biggest challenge of this project: management of the water fed by the property’s natural spring. The final design reveals a true feat of engineering–or the lack thereof. “There are no pumps in this system,” says Bockholt, describing his innovative, time-honored solution. “We had to find a way to create pressure in the pipes simply using the topography of the property.”
With a bit of mathematical ingenuity, the Bockholt team found the perfect balance. The small spring enters the side of the Gilmer farms property, where it begins its journey across the garden, flowing naturally through cascading waterfall stairs, riverstone-paved rills and shimmering ponds with fountains that run entirely on gravity flow.
To this day, the property is continuously evolving as a labor of love, with frequent updates from its passionate homeowners. “It can get overwhelming and very expensive to maintain a garden on this scale if you aren’t involved hands-on,” Bockholt explains. “It takes a certain type of person, and Brittan was the perfect client for this kind of endeavor. She is the key to this garden’s whole success.”