A Designer’s Garden

The time I spend planting pots and containers for clients sometimes enables me to see landscapes I would not otherwise see.  This old and stately Tudor style home has a landscape of considerable age- still viable, and still beautiful.  I am sure I have quoted Henry Mitchell at least three times on this topic.  “There are no beautiful old landscapes…beautiful landscapes are a result of the intensive care of the present.”  That being said, there are times when intensive care really means sensitive care.  Though this client is an interior designer of considerable skill, she felt no need to take apart, streamline, cleanup, remake, or other wise impose on a landscape beautifully situated and thriving in its own right.  

There is an understated but fully mature beauty to this property.  It takes a very mature and sure eye to leave untouched what is an integral part of the history of the property.  Her ability to leave be is pretty impressive.  These vintage wood boxes at her front door got tree-form hydrangea “Pink Diamond” .  It is a classically beautiful white hydrangea of paniculata grandiflora heritage, whose blooms pink as they age.  They seem so appropriate to the architecture of both the house and landscape. There are times when seeing what you expect to see is completely satisfying.  Certain plant materials feel right with certain architecture.  Nantucket style houses have a love affair of long standing with Rugosa roses.  1950 style ranch homes, on the other hand, can easily handle boxed hedges of gold vicary privet.  These plant materials are authentic to their respective time and place.      

This gorgeous stone staircase which I am guessing dates back to the 1920’s, is a home to old boston ivy vines.  My client made no effort to break up this old relationship-she only and gently prunes the vines away from the stair treads.  The urn set in a bed look like it has been there many years.  I have been guilty as charged plenty of times-thinking that gardening is another word for housekeeping. Like most people, I can be a contradiction in terms.  The Italian garden on the verge of ruin that I love so much I would never permit on my own property.  So I do recognize and respect a designer who deliberately keeps her hands from cleaning up the evidence of age from her landscape.

This pool is original to the house; the horizontal arms are a lap pool; the vertical arms designed for lounging in the water.  I have never seen another pool of this shape and design in person or in books. How it works to accomodate swimmers and loungers alike is simple and effective.  The overall shape striking-and well worth preservation.  

This very large oval wirework plant stand of an age and design quite sympathetic to the house and grounds, does not hold individual clay pots, as it once would have.  My client wanted to plant it of a piece.  Her point of view contrasts with the original intent of the piece, in a very effective way.  A garden of size is growing here.  The blues and whites are friendly to the overall white and lavender color scheme in evidence in all of the garden areas.  The piece sits on a bluestone terrace adjacent to the kitchen, at the rear of the house.  This garden is a very private space.   

A contemporary French terra cotta pot from the south of France is whitewashed, and planted in concert with the wirework stand.   Like other places in the landscape, my enchantment with the space does not rely on surprise. Every element seems to belong.

New to the kitchen terrace this year, a table and chairs in an entirely contemporary vein. The terrace has a new reason for being.


As sculptural as they are utilitarian, the suite is a substantial and confident dose of individual expression.  Unexpectedly, I really like it.

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