A place to be, a beautifully organized and finished space, a landscape composition-beautiful views go by many names. I love plants as much as the next gardener, but I have a bigger interest in the plants being integrated into a whole that makes a strong statement and engages the eye. Gardens are perpetually unfinished, but a good thought moving towards completion delights me the most. Of course I think that-I am serious about designing landscapes. This landscape-I have worked here 25 years. 25 years means time to evolve, time to attend to the little details, time to be surprised by what unexpectedly happens, time to take an idea, and grow up with it.
My client is an afficianado of the classic English landscape park. She admires the work of Capability Brown, an 18th century English landscape architect who designed upwards of 170 park landscapes. His landscapes were simple, and natural-as opposed to formal and structured. But as much as he sought to simply represent nature, there is much evidence of his hand. My client likes putting a subtle and natural hand to her landscape. Most strikingly, the old trees grow out of the lawn-sans barked circles around their trunks. Mulching trees with bark conserve moisture, and are something of a defense against damage from a string trimmer-but they are anything but natural looking. There is no bark anywhere on this property. Many years ago we regraded the entire back yard, with the idea in mind of creating interest at the ground plane. The ground rolls, dips and goes flat-most of this sculpture is covered with grass. Her early 20th century tudor home, built on a substantial piece of property, makes that thought to establish a park entirely believable.
Old stone walls, old trees, and but a few flowers-usually white- make for beautiful, and entirely serene views. I like landscapes that suggest reverie. I am not so much a fan of landscapes that are noisy or demanding. I see some landscapes I would describe as overwrought. The red leaved maples planted next to the chartreuse foliaged thuja-very lively. I like to visit landscapes with great visual excitement, but at home, I want sanctuary. It is very important to think about what you want and need from a garden before you plant.
A property of this size is unusual in an urban community. The public parks that exist in my community tend to be outfitted with benches, playgrounds, softball fields and the like. A landscape park can make much about what is not there. This landscape is quietly contemplative in feeling. The presence of the client is felt only in how beautifully she maintains her property.
There have been plenty of changes over the past 25 years, but they are hard to spot. This lawn area was once home to a swimming pool of natural and irregular shape. On occasion she will entertain outdoors; the light in early evening is beautiful in this spot.
The pool had become a considerable burden to maintain, as it was very old and always in need of some kind of repair. The lawn area into which it was set was lumpy and difficult to navigate. When the pool was removed, the lawn was regraded level enough to make entertaining comfortable.
It takes many years to cover large spaces such as this one with plants. There are thriving colonies of plants here-not 3 of this or five of that. Save the mature trees, no one plant stands out and demands recognition.
There are those unexpected moments. This wisteria has been in this spot as long as I have worked here. This spring’s show was particularly showy. The landscape near the house, glimpses of which can be seen in this photograph, are very formal and simple. They contrast with the flowing lines of the greater landscape-but in a quiet way.
Another client with whom I am working now is studying this view of her vintage Adirondacks furniture. Should the old honeysuckle thicket behind be removed, in order to open a view to the bigger landscape beyond? Do the chairs need the company, or would they be more beautiful set against the big expanse of lawn behind them? We are thinking about it.