Here’s the Dirt on a Gorgeous Backyard Overhaul In Chanhassen

Tabor. It’s pronounced tay-brr, and you’re going to need Google Maps to find it. The tiny northwestern Minnesota town—population 122—is where Jeff Gaffney spent lots of time as a kid. Visiting his grandparents’ farm in the burg shaped his work ethic and deep respect for the land. And it’s where Edina-based Tabor Group Landscape was born, at least in spirit.

Now, 16 years strong, Tabor won two 2018 Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association awards for its stunning overhaul of a residential yard in Chanhassen. The owners, John and Julie, have three children and wanted to create a space where previously, “There was just uneven lawn. There was no reason to go outside!” Gaffney says. “We wanted to capitalize on the ‘borrowed’ view of a lake in the distance.”

To bring the entire property together, the team did a quick update—what Gaffney calls a “fluff and buff”—to boost the home’s curb appeal and add color. For the backyard space, he drew up a plan that would layer hardscapes and native plants to create an organic-looking space where family members and guests of all ages could gather.

“I wanted it to feel like it was always there, not too manicured,” Julie says. “I wanted old school plants, like I was walking through my grandma’s garden. And we wanted space to walk around and meander, like an outdoor room.”

A low-maintenance gas fire pit is the focal point, with a brass surround researched by John and sourced from Alta Falls and Pond Supply in Orono. Its bluestone and Indiana limestone components are from Orijin Stone in St. Louis Park, which also sourced rolled lava rock to avoid the artificial look of jagged edges in the flaming center. Natural stone benches curve around it.

One goal of the space was to bring in the soothing sounds of a water feature, a favorite from the owners’ former home. A core-drilled basalt feature “bubbles and cascades out of the top, with a nice drop that creates a subtle splash,” Gaffney says. Its water speed is adjustable for different moody effects, and there are actually two separate pump mechanisms cleverly pulled together. “It gives the illusion that it naturally goes under the steps and picks up on the other side,” he says.

Tabor chose to use natural stone and soft lines wherever possible. Field-stone steps are sliced like a loaf of bread, with Dresser Trap Rock chips corralled within steel edging to define a set, yet organic-looking, edge. Full-range bluestone patio stones are set in an ashlar pattern, and natural, Laurel sandstone steps came from Orijin.

Softscapes are intentionally varied, native and low maintenance. Gaffney pulled in vertical drama with blue flag, yellow flag and Caesar’s brother irises, which feature blooms that are offset to give long-lasting, seasonal color. Daisies and salvia fill in between flowering crab trees that are absolute showstoppers in springtime. Smaller, ornamental conifers infuse texture and color, even in winter. And Gaffney worked with Kelly Green Irrigation in Victoria to design a dripline irrigation system that slowly waters everything without the interruption of traditional sprinklers.

Low-voltage lighting—by Landscaping Lighting by Lyle, Brooklyn Park—illuminates changes in elevation for added safety and shimmer. “The lighting is beautiful and truly put the final touch on the whole project. It was like putting the jewelry on out there,” Julie says. “It’s beautiful during the day, but at night?
It’s just gorgeous.”

The family often gathers outside, roasting marshmallows and losing track of bedtimes. “This really, honestly transformed our house,” says Julie, pointing out three sets of patio doors that open completely, blurring the line between indoors and out. “It’s like we added a couple thousand square feet to the house. We live out there in summer.

It’s relaxing. Calm. Like it was always supposed to be there.”