Designing Mice Under the Carpet

In my previous post I spent some time talking about berms and such, plus some other fun nonsense. Fun nonsense? . . . and I must say some very practical nonsense on designing berms.


Berms and boulders as part of the Landscape
Berms and boulders as part of the Landscape

Notice I do not call these mounds. Why? Well they’re not. They are not mounds . . . as in Indian Burial Mounds.

We are also not at war here in America, specifically the Civil War or as my Southern friends and in-laws say . . .

The War of Northern Aggression

Which means we are also not designing Civil War Breastworks to place cannon behind and create good firing angles, no my friends we are creating landscaped berms.

Mice, where do mice come in?

Leave it to one of the usual suspects(e-mailers) going by his pen name of bushpeddler. Bushpeddler? . . . how’s that for an internet handle for a landscape designer? Actually(and I hate to give credit to him) it’s pretty damn good 🙂

Where was I? Oh yeah mice. So bushpeddler writes to me

Yeah, you’re right, but I tell clients those awful little mounds look like mice under the carpet.

Mice under the carpet, mice under the carpet I am thinking and visualizing to myself and I’ll be damned if that’s not the truth. When you look at some of the awful mound work going on out there it really does look like mice under the carpet . . . just visualize it for yourself next time you are out on a job site you are going to fix.

Mice Under the Carpet
Mice Under the Carpet

Those do look like something under the carpet.

How does this Happen?

Simple. So simple in fact that it’s what drives me crazy insane. It’s like this. The lawn area is always flat or following along perfectly with the terrain . . . then P O W !!! blammomounding. Lawn, lawn, lawn . . . mound, breastwork, mice. Just like that.

With absolutely no connection to the surroundings. No wonder some people call them islands. Sometimes it seems the mound goes straight up defying all laws of gravity.

Then you got:

  1. Perfect round humps.
  2. 45 degree sides with a perfect flat top.
  3. Big slopes with some badly place stones(lots of these).
  4. Then; of course, we have the dreaded mulch mound. Year after year piling the mulch higher and deeper around the base of shrubs and trees-in an attempt to kill whatever is being buried.
  5. And all other types of offensive mounds, hills, islands breastworks, and mice.

On the other hand

How about a better way to berm? Something more pleasing to the eye, more fluid, more integration between lawn and berm. A connection that allows for great space(s).

A more Pleasing Roll in the Landscape
A more Pleasing Roll in the Landscape

It isn’t that Hard.

Why not roll the lawn or whatever the ground plane is, up into the progression of the berm topography? Creating a better connection; or melding, where the lawn and planting area doesn’t have to come across as so harsh and rigid divide.

It’s been said that the lawn is the foreground to the scene, and then the scene appears beyond that foreground. We have no need as Designers to so sharply separate one from the other.

So let the lawn roll up into the berm, or in some instances have the planting area develop down onto the flat topography that would have been all lawn. Create the flow.

The berming can become part of the landscape rather than be something in the landscape.

By Rick Anderson

The Whispering Crane Institute was originally formed to act as the umbrella organization for the Philosophy of Design Symposium, and other seminars and workshops given by Rick Anderson and Richard L. Dube’. In the year 2000 WCI became a sole proprietorship owned by Rick Anderson. Today the WCI provides design and consultation services for Landscape Contractors, acts as a Green Industry think tank, and provides training for others in the form of workshops, seminars, and individual consulting. The WCI also provides written material, opinions, case-studies and how-to articles for industry trade magazines.


  1. The simple answer is: It’s easier and cheaper go make “mice under the carpet” them. You just “plop” some “dirt” down and bark/munch it. It takes much less “dirt” and fewer plants and bark. The limit to how high the mouse will be is how high steep can you stack “dirt”.

    Actually Rick, I like your approach. Beginning the slope before the transition is a great idea. It looks and feels good. It does take quite a bit more “Dirt” though.

    1. It does usually boil down to that money thing, but a lot of it is boring, lazy, uninspired design . . . hey let’s call it like it is. The good designers all run the lawn up into the slope to achieve the nice transition.

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