Bozeman, MT Landscape Design Case Study: Multiple Levels for One Unified, Functional Backyard

Written By: Mason Shaffer

Nov 8, 2019 1:09:20 PM

Oftentimes, when homeowners are in the process of renovating and updating their homes, they eventually turn to the landscape and realize that vital changes can be made there as well. 

That was the case for this property. As the home itself evolved with renovations, the homeowners were seeking landscape design in Bozeman, MT that would help bring their relatively plain landscape to life. Their goal was to make their outdoor space a true extension of their home.

Breathing Life and Functionality into the Landscape

One of the biggest issues with this landscape was simply the fact that it was lacking. It had very basic foundation plantings and lacked hardscape surfaces to give them any sort of functionality. Though the house was situated in a great neighborhood with stunning views, the landscape design was not taking advantage of these factors.

One aspect of this property that some landscape designers might view as a challenge was the topography. It had inclines and grading that needed to be accounted for. Personally, this is my favorite type of landscape to work with as it allows me to nestle spaces into the grade and truly make them look as though they were always meant to be a part of the landscape. In an effort to make the finished project look as natural as possible, working with the original topography of the land is key. Incorporating stairs using natural stone is the ideal way to make sloped properties easy to navigate and functional while still blending with the landscape.

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multiple level backyard in Bozeman, MT

With that in mind, this project ultimately had two different levels. The upper level features a fire pit area and the lower level features a hot tub. However, it is interesting to note that when we first designed this project, we had the hot tub on the upper level. Mid-construction, we went and flipped them. Though the upper patio had the best views, the homeowners also felt as though they’d be more exposed (or on display) with their hot tub in that location. Instead, they chose to have it cozied-in against the house.

This was ultimately a wise choice in that it best fit the homeowners’ wants and needs. However, it’s also a great example of the value that comes in working with a design/build company in which the same company that is designing your project is also building it. 

When you work with entirely separate Bozeman MT landscape architects and construction firms, these types of mid-construction changes wouldn’t be possible.

Blending the Landscape Design with Nature

A seamless transition between landscaped areas and nature is always a primary goal of any landscape design work that we do. In this case, the use of a lot of seat boulders not only achieved that natural look but also had the important functional purpose of providing plenty of overflow seating around the lower level patio. 

Landscape Lighting

One interesting way in which we incorporated landscape lighting into this project was to physically attach the light fixtures to the boulders that we used. Not only did this keep it low-profile and help achieve our goal of blending with nature, but it also served a functional problem that often arises in the Bozeman, MT area—the fact that wildlife such as moose and elk often step on light fixtures that are placed within the landscape.

landscape lighting on boulders

Mounting the fixtures to boulders provided a way for them to be more secure and protected while also delivering the safety and ambiance that they are so critically needed for. In particular, lighting around the step areas was important on this project given the fact that it features changing elevations. It was essential that this property was easy and safe to traverse even in the evening hours.


The plants chosen for this project and the way in which they were incorporated also went a long way in upholding our goal of ensuring the project fully blended with nature. 

Landscape plantings in backyard in Bozeman, MT

We designed a very intentional layering of plant material and worked various native perennials into the planned landscape design. The end result was a designed landscape that looked as though it fit perfectly with the surrounding area.

Hardscape Materials

In helping make this project one with nature, close attention was also paid to the hardscape materials used. The stone chosen for the patio was Frontier Sandstone, which is a local material that comes right from our region. In addition, the boulders used for this project were all Chief Cliff, which is quarried in North Western Montana.

When you use materials like these, the end result is timeless. There is no “going out of style” for natural stone.

Backyard patio and fire pit designed by Blanchford Landscape in Bozeman, MT

As the homeowners saw their landscape come together with these beautiful and natural materials it also afforded us a very unique opportunity to help them select the stone utilized for the replacement of the fake stone they had on their home and were looking to update. 

Usually, we have no choice but to interpret the landscape based on the existing architecture, taking cues from the house itself to make sure that the landscape blends well. But in this case, we were able to allow the architecture to be interpreted from the landscape. The new stone on the house now matches the Chief Cliff boulders that are used in the landscape, ensuring that the entire project comes together seamlessly.

Additional Touches and Features

The main portion of this landscape design in Bozeman, MT was performed on the property’s “side yard.” That’s where the upper and lower level patios are located and where the homeowners primarily spend their time. 

However, we did make updates to the front yard as well. The front yard landscape design was focused on creating some ambiance to the “arrival area” of the home. This included adding a small water feature that provided some visual interest.  In addition, this project included renovating all of the property’s plant beds, including plant material in the front yard.

Landscape water feature at entrance to home

Another addition was a small patio area where the homeowner’s home office exited the house. This gave him a spot where he could take conference calls outside in order to be able to fully immerse himself in the outdoors, even during his workday.

The Perfect Combination

This project is a great example of how well we can work with homeowners when it comes to blending their wants and needs with our expertise and skill. 

These homeowners had a lot of great ideas and knew what they wanted to achieve with the space—and they trusted us to fill in the gaps and make the solutions that they wanted actually work.

patio with stairs and Jacuzzi in Bozeman, MT

In the end, the result was a landscape that is a true extension of their home giving them maximum use and enjoyment of their property. This landscape design truly capitalizes on the beauty of the views and the nature that surrounds it. Instead of looking like it was haphazardly placed, it looks like it was always meant to be here. With the use of timeless natural materials, it’s always going to blend beautifully.

Of course, not all landscape design companies in Bozeman, MT take all of these factors into account. You can easily tell the difference between a design in which every little detail, including seamless blending with nature, was considered and one that was not. It also remains a value-add to work with a company that not only offers design services but construction, all under one roof in order to ensure that the project evolves exactly as you desire. 

It was these homeowners’ wise choice in a landscape design/build company that allowed their project to come together as they dreamed it would.

Are you ready to get the process of bringing your outdoor dreams at your Bozeman or Big Sky, MT home to life? Let’s connect and talk about your project. Then, we can meet and begin talking about your ideas.

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Topics: Landscape Design, Case Study

Posted by Mason Shaffer

Mason has earned both a degree in Ornamental Horticulture and a graduate degree in Landscape Architecture prior to joining our team in 2011. Outside of work, you will find Mason spending quality time with his wife and two little girls. They will likely be exploring the outdoors, camping, fishing, golfing, planting, or just playing in the dirt.