Exterior Design

Selecting Plants for your Landscape Style

June 28, 2020

Selecting plants for your landscape style
Modern Lakeside Dream Yard
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    How do you select plants to match your landscape style and climate? Do you spend hours looking through Houzz and Pinterest gathering ideas for your yard design? We do have elements of each style that we love, and ultimately our yard ended up having an eclectic mix in our design and plants leaning most heavily on a modern design.
After designing the layout and elements in our Utah Lakeside Dream Yard, we had to pick plants that work in UT to match our landscaping style.

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Landscape Styles:

    Our design leaned heavily on modern elements that had clean sections with groups of similar plants. With over two decades as an Architectural Designer, Jet was excited to take on the yard design and plant research. When you look at modern gardens like one of our favorite inspiration gardens in Palm Springs the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center, you see it features desert and succulents plants. These plants are not suitable for the UT climate. We wanted to achieve a similar look, using mostly water-wise plants that would thrive in our environment. We had some favorite plants on our list, but we also consulted some of our neighbors on plants they used in their yards that we liked.  We also used the expertise from our local nurseries.  

Modern Landscape Style Plant selection:

Jet’s criteria for reviewing plants focused on grassy selections that would look good in the lakeside landscape and modern designs. For the variety of the other plants, Jet looked for primarily single-colored plants with distinct shapes and textures. He looked at desert plants that thrive in UT like Yucca’s. Here are our final selections: You will see a theme of purples weaving throughout the full landscape design.

Purple Salvia

Purple Salvia: 

We used these throughout our side yard to add some deep spring-blooming color that is perennial.

Russian Sage

Russian Sage:

An extensive section of our backyard has another one of our favorite plants, Russian Sage. Talk about mid-summer to fall drama when these are purple, and in bloom on one full side of our yard, it is incredible. The draw the bees to our yard, and if you like the smell of sage, is it just heavenly to take a walkthrough.



We are about an hour away from the famous Young Living Lavender Farms.  They have such large lavender fields that when they are in bloom, it looks endless.  They have a festival during the blossom season that if your ever in UT at the time, you should put it on your calendar to attend.   We wanted hints of this in our yard, so we put them in our front yard planter. They are lush plants that are an excellent barrier to weeds and the morning glory that UT grows.

Purple Maiden Grass

Purple Maiden Grass:

Partnering closely with your landscaper can help you find options you had not considered.  JC Landscaping recommended this grass option, and in the fall, their purple foliage is a subtle nod to coming fall colors. In this photo, you can see the purple color just starting to form at the ends of the grass.

Blue Festuca Grass

Blue Festuca Grass:

This is in one of the sections in the backyard. It is blue, green grass that has golden wheat color florets.

Coral Bells

Coral Bells:

Cameron from JC Landscaping suggested this plant due to its unique shape. It hardy, and the foliage has a deep purple color.  We used this as a group of plants in one section in the backyard.

Karl Foerster Grass

Karl Foerster Grass: 

We used these tall grass selections to emphasize our entrance walkway.  We used eight of them to frame the walkway and to mimic a column feel.

Hamlin Grass

Hamlin Grass:

This was another excellent recommendation from Cook’s nursery staff.  We were looking for a complimentary grass to the tall Karl Foerster Grass we were using to frame our entrance walkway.  These are clumping round grasses ours are about 12 inches tall and 16 inches wide.

Autumn Joy

Autumn Joy Sedum:

I am totally in love with this plant. My neighbor Cindy Bean has these in her yard and told us about this plant. These plants are so easy to grow, and you can propagate them quickly by cutting section and just putting it into a new spot. These green plants turn a shade of mauve to wine color in the fall.

Red Hot Pokers

Red Hot Pokers:

We added these to our side yard with the Japanese maple plants.  They remind me of Yukka plants, but they are not cactus. They are softer but have a similar shape.  They have these flowers that come up from the center and have an orange, red vibrant color.



This is one of the few cactus options that thrive in UT, and we wanted to do a whole section of them in the yard.  Since we had a toddler that was probably not a good idea, we couldn’t cut them out altogether since we love them but used them more as an accent and have coached Lily about staying away from them.

English Garden Landscape Style Plant Selections:

Our eclectic design pulled extensively from plants that are popular in English Garden styles. The plants we like in this style were plants with large blooms.

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon: 

We did an entire section in these bushes. They are so beautiful in the mid-summer and fall as they bloom.  We choose to plant them all in white. 



Jet wasn’t too excited when I insisted on roses in the cerement planter.  But now he is a huge fan.  The four bushes explode in blooms of color and add an element of privacy to the firepit seating area



These are a favorite of Jet’s Mom and mine. We went bold in the front planter by adding six plants. They are show-stopper when in bloom, and are so elegant when they cut them to bring some color indoors.

Black Lace Elderberry

Black Lace Elderberry: 

This was one of our favorite finds for the yard.  I had never seen these before we visited Cook’s nursery. We reviewed our landscape design with one of the designers from the nursery. He was great at suggesting plants that could work.  He showed us the black lace plants that have unique purple-black foliage.  We went to pick up several of them, and he warned us only to buy one.  These are incredible. It grew to 6×6 ft at a minimum in one season.  We didn’t know that in the early summer, they also bloom with these sizeable pink flower clusters.  Black Lace is a gem for your yard.



So we had visions of our Arbor covered in vines.  A few years ago, we drove through a neighborhood near Jet’s parent’s house when we saw a fence gate covered in these blooming purple flowers. We just loved the look, Jet stopped and knocked on their door to ask them what it was, and they said Clematis. We already loved Wisteria, but the Arbor is enormous, so we decided to add the slow-growing Clematis to the inside beams of the Arbor. 

Whirling Butterfly Gaura

Gaura Whirling Butterfly: 

We put this into one of the sections of the backyard.  We used six of these plants. They have flowing stems and delicate flowers; they add such subtle color, and the plant’s movement in a light breeze is exquisite.

Asian Landscape Style Plant Selection:

We love to visit Japanese style gardens for their controlled design and calming elements. From the use of flowing water to manicured use of plants and rock, they just exude peace and serenity.

Whirling Butterfly Gaura


This is a garden that is still on our bucket list to see during our travels.  This one is so stunning it will inspire you with pictures alone.  The Kawachi Wisteria Garden, the arbors are rainbows of color.  We wanted a taste of this at home.  Wisteria is a fast-growing, and it is dramatic when in bloom.  The thing you have to remember, Wisteria they are robust plants and can pull down a foundation that is not strong enough for it. We wanted a metal arbor for the look but also its strength.

Yoshino Cherry Tree

Yoshino Cherry Trees: 

We always look to incorporate our story into our designs.  One of our favorite family trips was to Washington DC during the Cherry Blossom festival when Seth was in his senior year of high school.  If you have not been to Washington DC during the celebration, you should add it to your bucket list.  The Yoshino Cherry trees were a gift from Japan.  It is breathtaking to see endless blossoms.  We planted a small orchard 12 of them on the north side of our yard to remind us of this fantastic trip each spring.

Japanese Maple Tree

Japanese Maple Trees: 

Throughout the years of going to home shows, they use Japanese Maple in some of our favorite yards.  They have red to purple foliage, and they are very slow-growing, and the shape is so unique.

In Utah, our local Costco sells these for a comparatively low price in the spring.  We were lucky enough to get them at that time, and we bought 7 of these for our south side yard.  To get the story on why we choose 7, watch the interview with Jet, where he tells you about one of his Asian superstitions.

Harry Lauder's Walking Stick

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick Tree: 

We saw this one while visiting the Thanksgiving Point Gardens with Pam Freday.  Pam Freday is an artist who has lived in many places across the country. She is an avid gardener and has an eye for a unique design. She pointed out a full-grown amazing Harry Walker Lauder Tree and showed me the branches and the intricate twisting branches on the tree.  She said they look great when the leaves fall, and you string lights on them for Christmas.  We knew we needed one of these trees in the planter in the backyard.

 Eclectic Mix of Plants in our modern landscape design

     Ultimately we have a Modern Design for our backyard design.  The plant selection includes a very eclectic mixture of plants that works for Utah and our landscape style. We have been focusing a lot on landscaping for your Dream Yard. If you want more:

Utah Lake Side Dream Yard: See how the whole design came together and watch the interview with Designer Jet Lee.

How to select the best Landscape Designer and Landscapers: Jet shares his advice with more than two decades of experience as an Architectural Designer.

Planning your Yard Design: Jet shares how he gets his inspiration for yard designs with you.

If you’re working on landscape projects, be sure to get your Free Guide to Selecting the Best Landscape Professionals. Signing up for the guide will also get you access to our newsletter, where you will get additional Design, Home Décor, DIY, and craft ideas delivered to your email weekly.  If you would like to work with us on a project reach out to tristy@liliesandjets.com.

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