Condo Blues: Winter Outdoor Living Spaces an Interview with HGTV’s Dan Berger

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Winter Outdoor Living Spaces an Interview with HGTV’s Dan Berger

HGTV landscaping shows make me jealous of big backyards because my tiny place will not hold a big deck, fire pit, or a little grotto with waterfall. I have a thing for gazebos too. *Wistful sigh*

To compensate, I designed our front porch to be as inviting as possible.

Now that it’s fall going into winter, my perennials are gone and my yard looks a little sad. I wish I had an HGTV designer on speed dial to help me make the outside of my Midwestern home as inviting and usable in the fall and winter as it is during the spring and summer.

I recently given the opportunity to interview Garden Designer and contributor Dan Berger and ask him all my questions about transitioning my outdoor spaces for fall and winter. Dan’s work is gorgeous! He really knows his stuff when it comes to landscaping and garden design. Dan is the owner of LandPlan Landscaping. He has appeared on numerous episode of the HGTV show "Landscape Smart." Dan has also worked with This Old House and been featured in Sunset Magazine.  

Photo courtesy of Dan Berger 

Lisa from Condo Blues: I’m a fan of what I like to call “Slow Decorating” – designing a project and then completing it bit by bit as time and budget permits. Inside the house, most Slow Decorating starts by changing the floor or walls. What should a homeowner consider when planning a Slow Decorating project in outdoor spaces? Is there a suggested order in which you should complete DIY projects for an outdoor space? Is there a first element you should complete and then build off on?

Dan Berger: I hear this often. Remember that no matter how small – an outdoor space serves as an extension of your home. This space can provide you extra square footage of living space while serving as an inviting retreat. The first element should be a design that provides for the functions you wish your yard to support. By envisioning what you want your yard to be- you can start to install the elements that make it up. One of the first elements is usually the people spaces. After all, everyone needs a spot to sit down and rest while working. However, this is usually the most expensive space as well, so if the budget is tight you can always start with the outlying plants that will not be in the way of other construction. This allows them lots of time to grow while the rest of the yard is being installed.

Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, the key is to start small and let something grow over time.

Photo courtesy of Dan Berger 

Lisa from Condo Blues: I love how yards, landscaping, and front porches look during the summer. It is fall in the Midwest. All of the summer perennials are gone. Yards, landscaping, and front porches look bare and a little sad. How do homeowners punch it up/transition their outdoor porches and curb appeal for winter/fall?

Dan Berger: For the most part you can’t rely on plants for your curb appeal. Fortunately, decorating for fall, Halloween, Christmas and New Years covers this period.  If you had incorporated groupings of colorful pots partially buried in your front yard landscape you would now have places to put decorations for the holidays. Things like artificial plants, Santas, lights, sculptures…. All of this works and the list is endless.

Keep in mind, for the plant enthusiast there are many cold hardy foliage plants that are bold and beautiful even in winter.  There are plants that have colored stems when all foliage has fallen, you just have to find them. Adding warm yet durable structures to your front yard in the form of Red Cedar trellises or arbors gives you something to focus on besides dormant plants. You can find “how to” tips at www.

Photo courtesy of Dan Berger 

Lisa from Condo Blues: Do you have any tips for transitioning an outdoor summer backyard deck or patio into an inviting and fun fall hangout? Many die hard barbequers and tail gaters still use their summer grills long after the backyard pool has been winterized. Some even hardier folk insist on grilling even when the snow flies!

Dan Berger: This time of year is about warmth. When you’re outside, you still want to feel warm. You want to look at that private space on your deck, maybe a couch with a down comforter, and say to yourself, “I want to go outside.” Try adding an inexpensive portable fire pit, perfect for roasting marshmallows on chilly nights yet easy to shift out of the way for guests.  Create an environment where your friends and loved ones want to have food and drinks.

Photo courtesy of Dan Berger 

Lisa from Condo Blues: My builder promised easy to care for landscaping that died three times. After repairing drainage and soil issues my husband and I installed Landscaping 4.0. What type of fall and winter maintenance tasks should I consider completing to encourage my new plantings to live next spring?

Dan Berger: This is a real hard question to answer as it is dependent on the types of plants you have and the soil and weather environment in which they exist.  It is always best in harsh climates to plant in the spring so that the new plants have months and months to get established for their first winter.  Then when winter approaches- prune, protect and maintain as the species requires.

Photo courtesy of Dan Berger 

Lisa from Condo Blues: Many of my readers move into homes that have existing landscaping. They cannot afford to remove everything and start again. What type of things should you consider when evaluating what stays and what goes in a new to you landscape?

Dan Berger: I always look for problem situations first. If a tree is too close to the house it needs to be moved. If the patio is too small, then existing landscaping in the way needs to be removed. I always try to keep as much of the existing as fits into my new plan.

Photo courtesy of Dan Berger 

Lisa from Condo Blues: Well sculpted big backyards with multilevel decks, outdoor kitchens, and water features are on the wish list of many homeowners and DIYers. How do you suggest those homeowners move forward with small backyards or live in areas with homeowner association guidelines that prohibit much of that eye candy?

Dan Berger: This is an issue of good design. A good design can create the appearance of space that does not exist. A good design can work within the parameters of HOA guidelines and still create an outstanding yard. You just need to think differently.  I strongly suggest that homeowners engage a good landscape designer as the first step in moving forward with their backyard.

Photo courtesy of Dan Berger 

Lisa from Condo Blues: This question comes from my readers who are renters. How do you personalize a temporary outdoor space? What should you consider when purchasing outdoor furniture that may need to work in multiple rented homes or apartments?

Dan Berger: You can’t go wrong by choosing natural elements. Western Red Cedar makes beautiful natural furniture that goes with all things and can be easily transported. You can also build Cedar screens and portable fences to use and take with you. This will give you a base that you can use over and over again. You can also add personality by adding photos, sculptures and other personal items to your yard and structures. For fun, wrap tall plants with string lights to brighten the space.

Photo courtesy of Dan Berger 

Lisa from Condo Blues: What are you working on? Do you have any future projects you can tell us about?

Dan Berger: I’m currently designing a small yard with a wonderful cozy patio space defined by a Western Red Cedar T-Arbor. It will enclose the area and disguise a small storage shed that screens the patio from a neighbor.

Photo courtesy of Dan Berger 

I couldn’t resist throwing at least one kooky curve ball question into the mix that may or may not relate to what I see in my neighbor’s yard. *ahem*

Lisa from Condo Blues: One more question. A sweet little old lady moves in next door to you. What would you rather see in her garden: lawn gnomes or a garden Yeti? (Oh yes, friends, garden Yetis are real.)

Dan Berger: Most definitely the Yeti.

I want to thank Dan for allowing me to conduct this interview. I appreciate how Dan tries to keep as much of the existing landscaping as he can when he is planning a project because it’s easy to scrap everything and go completely new. This interview has given me some ideas on what to do with our back yard next summer. I’m seriously considering Dan’s portable fire pit idea.

And replacing my neighbor’s army of lawn gnomes with a garden Yeti.

Did you enjoy this post? Get more like it by subscribing to the Condo Blues RSS Feed or to Condo Blues by Email.

1 comment :

Mary said...

Nice interview, Lisa! It's got my imagination working and I'm already inspired to make a couple of simple changes to make the back porch more inviting right away, but no garden gnomes or yetis are involved :) My dogs would probably keep me awake at night barking at them.

Post a Comment

I love comments and read them all! If you’re shy and don’t want your opinions made public, you can always email me at condoblues [at] gmail [dot] com.