A French Style Country House


I have lots of clients that make good moves, architecturally. I marvel at how people manage to build beautiful homes-no matter the problems.  The problems don’t show in the end; this I like.  I would never want a visitor to any of my gardens to be burdened with a discussion of what didn’t work. I just want them to enjoy what they see.   I am probably old school in this regard.    The interiors of my client’s houses so represent a working knowledge of design, a clear vision of what they need to live, and lots of  personal touches. Naturally, they like that same visual discussion outdoors.


This really beautiful French country style house was hidden behind an early and not so compelling landscape; my clients knew this full well.  An ancient spruce under attack from gall, that hid the house was taken down.  Don’t think I take old trees down capriciously-I do not.  This spruce was fast approaching the end of its lifespan.  I did not want to design around it. 

french1The property had steep grades, and drainage issues both. I made use of a bulldozer.  That machine of mine can make quick work of a lot of ills. Just being able to see the front door was a big improvement.    

I had in my mind that big Belgian made wood boxes would benefit this landscape.  The wood repeats the wood of the shutters, and makes a statement in support of the country French idea in place from the start.  I had the idea to pick up where they finished with the house.  Those wood boxes were key.


Though the landscape scheme is very simple, it is a formal scheme dressed down by an unpruned hedge of taxus densiformis. Two tall boxes, and two shorter ones in front seemed appropriate.

A formal statement can be formal to the nines, or gracefully reminiscent of formal.  Each project, each house, each client-I try to respond in such a way that the end product seems to belong to the house, and to them. 


At this point the big scheme of things begins to be clear.  The grading and drainage issues have been addressed.   This beautiful house is celebrated by its landscape.  The Belgian wood boxes are perfect here.  At this point we are discussing a finish for the boxes, and perhaps a new finish for the painted shutters.

french7The lawn panels are formal, no doubt.  They are softened by the plantings in the Belgian boxes, and the wildly representing yews.  This scheme makes a presentation of the house that I think represents the feelings of my clients. In my view,  success is all about  the serious  interaction I have with clients. There is a moment, a chunk of time, in which we have a serious exchange.  Whatever came before, whatever looms ahead, we had our moment.  Notice the finish on the boxes-and a new finish on the shutters.


These beautiful boxwood parterres were existing; I replaced the center element with Belgian wood boxes. This placement is a little unexpected, but repeats the idea of dressed-down formal in a strong way.  

french2ndtolastThese boxes overflowing with flowers make a  big statement.   Wood in the landscape is a natural.   In this case we lined the boxes with sheet metal liners, to improve the longevity of the boxes.  The entire scheme is friendly and pleasing to the eye. 



  1. Love this hous and the beautiful landscape design. What type of ivy is gowing next to the house? Does this ivy stay green all winter?
    Do you ever do landscape designs in mid Michigan?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Lenore, this is Baltic Ivy. I do not travel to do design work. I have a design build firm, meaning I take work that my crews will install. It would be prohibitive to a client for my crews to travel to do their work. all the best, Deborah

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