The idea of a house on a hill has a grand and romantic ring to it-especially considering I have spent my entire life standing on ground no higher than sea level. The terraced gardens of the villas of the Italian Lakes-heavenly. Meaning, heavenly to look at, and the devil to visit and maintain. The crest of this fairly steep slope was home to a narrow driveway. Driving uncomfortably close to a steep slope can be nervewracking; I would not have wanted to drive it at night, after a few cocktails. A beautiful drivecourt would provide room to drive and park. The requirement for flat space would be provided by a retaining wall of pressure treated lumber. As I planned to grow climbing hydrangea on the face, I chose the most reasonable and serviceable material.
The driveway was equally close to the front door, and ran past the house to the garage. This made for little opportunity for a presentation of the house, and its fourteen foot width did not permit much parking. It seemed appropriate to splurge here. Two inch thick bluestone laid in a classic aschlar pattern, and bordered in granite setts announced the entrance in an elegant and spacious way.
When not in use as a driveway, or for parking, this areafunctioned as a terrace. I have known my clients to host a pre-dinner hour here on a nice night. The asphalt would remain in place on either side. A stone driveway demands expert installation, a service which is well worth the expense.
The landscape is simple. Rectangles planted solidly with yews abut four rectangles of pachysandra and matching English Oaks. The triple wide hedge of yews adjacent to the retaining wall provide security for people and vehicles. These masses of yews did have that polka-dot pattern for a few years until they grew in; proper spacing at planting helps to avoid cultural problems later.
A driveway that runs parallel to the front door needs a landscape statement that signals an imminent entrance. This drivecourt landscape creates the impression that the garden came first, and the drive through second. The English oaks enclose the space, without obstructing the view of the house.
It has been a number of years since this garden was installed. This photograph clearly illustrates what a graceful space has been created from the simple idea of flat ground. Sloped spaces are not particularly sociable or functional spaces. Deciding how you need a space to function, should organize the design to come.
A pair of French orangery boxes from Les Jardin du Roi Soleil define the transition from driveway to walkway. These boxes have been manufactured in this shape, design, and color since ythe 17th century. The legs, corners and hinges are cast iron. Originally, the slatted oak boards and hinged iron permitted the boxes to be opened from the side. A lemon tree that had summered outdoors could be slid out of its box, and stored in the orangery for the winter. How’s that for a little romance?
Simple rectangles of painted wood contain boxwood hedges that sit between the columns of the porch, and on the roof. The modification of the roof to hold those boxes-the work of a very thoughtful interior designer.
There is a fine view from the inside looking out as well. Flat spaces are great places to meet and to be.