One Pair Of Hands



I have plenty of clients who like to do their own gardening-LW is one of them.  How she finds the time, I have no idea.  She is a PPWC-a professional person with a full time job who by the way has children.  I greatly admire this kind of determination to garden.  Why would a gardener who does all of her own work want a landscape plan from a designer professional?  It takes just as much resolve and money to plant a visually disappointing landscape with a poorly chosen plants as a good landscape with interesting and well chosen plants.  She wanted a plan.  My plan-a birthday gift to her from a close friend.  


do it yourself landscape installation

I cannot remember how long it has been since I did the plan, but I recently got a call-she was ready for the next step.  This small spot near her back door is just as it was when I first visited-and I did not specifically address this area in the initial plan.  We decided in just a few minutes to bring the front yard boxwood pattern through the fence panels that visually enclose her drivecourt, and return it to the wall of the house.  That her plan had called for a double row of boxwood, it was easy to see an espaliered fruit tree as the ending element of the boxwood.  The same set of perennials planted in the front yard would be planted behind the boxwood in this section.  But the big treat of the visit was to see what she had already installed from the original plan.


The original landscape featured boxwood planted on either side of the steps, and against the foundation of the porch.  The front bed seemd too shallow for the size of the staircase, and much too routine.  The Japanese maple on the left looked forlorn, and neither here nor there visually.  An old weeping cherry on the right end of the porch was in very poor health.  

I kept the boxwood-it would be a fine compliment to the architecture.  But I moved the hedge out past the bottom step of the porch-away from the foundation.  The porch has a much stronger presence now.   And I specified a double row, so the depth of the hedge would be generous.  Once these small boxwoods get to be 30″ tall, that 6′ depth will add a strong green element to the presentation of the stairs, porch, and front door.  Moving the boxwood away from the foundation meant that she could grow tall shade tolerant perennials in the space behind them.  Her landscape would not substantially alter in appearance over the winter.  The side yard would get a new fence.  I suggested adding a pair of fence panels on the left side of the house  This makes the garage less prominent, and the front view stronger.    

The right hand side of the steps featured a large bed whose main reason to be had to do with the shade under the cherry.  I suggested that the front yard landscape would benefit from a planting scheme that was consistent, all the way across the width of the property.  This would provide for an interesting transition from the front yard to the side.


Each end of the porch is visually anchored with a Venus dogwood.  The planting does look sparse, as the plants are spaced correctly-but plants grow.  It will be faster than she thinks-the growing in part.  Every year will look some better.


The grass path to the side yard gate is a transition from the front to the side and back yard.  When the boxwoods have matured, and the perennials have made big clumps, it will be a pleasant walk.  Transition spaces in gardens serve the same purpose as a foyer in a home.  The moving from from one space to the next is graceful and unhurried.

 Though the hydrangeas had not yet leafed out, it is easy to imagine that from the street the foreground view will be about the staircase, and attending hedge of limelight hydrangea.  Venus dogwood are set within this hedge too, so they repeat the dogwoods in the boxwood.  4 more Venus dogwoods frame the street view to the side garden gate-the picture of the plan makes the idea clear.  The hydrangeas will help make the midground lawn space much more private. The sidewalk and staircase will be visually enlarged with the addition of decomposed granite on each side, and the walk will be carried all the way out to the street.  She has plans to do the drivecourt garden, and the sidewalk additions this year-but would I take a look at the side yard, to look at the design in a less schematic, and more finished way?  I like her style-already, she is making plans for next season.


  1. Michael K says

    Just what I needed today.

  2. Just what I need every day.

  3. How right you are Jane…how right you are.

  4. I discovered your blog a few months ago as I looked for ideas for my garden. I love to learn, and your explanations for plant choices, positioning, spacing, etc. have taught me so much! Including the plans and the pictures as well really helps us see your holistic vision.

    I also have loved when you revisit a plant or garden that you created years before. The passion you show for each garden or tree, no matter how big or simple, and the way you explain their changes through the years, oh boy, that’s just garden porn to me!

    This blog is, as that recent email from Gretchen stated, a wonderful gift to the world. THANK YOU for sharing.

    On a different note and following your wise statement, “It takes just as much resolve and money to plant a visually disappointing landscape with a poorly chosen plants as a good landscape with interesting and well chosen plants.” I recently decided to hire a landscape designer to help put my wishes into a sensible and beautiful plan for my garden. There is nothing like an expert to help one make wiser choices before putting in the money and effort.

    I apologize for my long comment, but my gratefulness was long overdue.


    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mari, I am happy to hear from you any time. Thank you for your letter. It doesn’t matter much whether the garden is grand or big or small or simple or a few pots on the front porch-every garden revolves around making something grow. Everyone does this in a different way. Deborah

  5. Garden porn. Hmmmm. I am going to have to think about that one.

  6. Hey! I recognize this yard! Thank you Deborah for providing me with the inspiration to start digging in on my work in progress. We are on Step .5 of 100, but one day at a time – right? The boxwood are so puny, but that’s nothing 50 pounds of Osmacote and ten years won’t fix. I greatly appreciated your words of encouragement – when one is lost is a 1/2 acre of plans and endless projects (and weeds) a leg up once in awhile is great. And as far as the PPWC status is concerned, my secret is a well-timed ice cream bribe, especially when one does not want to be interrupted when meeting with important landscape designers! Laura

    • Deborah Silver says

      Even if it were going to take 10 years for those boxwoods to grow up-you have the time. You are a young person! There is a substantial difference from when I first saw your property-it’s just a lot easier for me to see than you. Deborah

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