The Landscape Finish

I have written a number of posts about this very special project that has taken better than a year to complete. I have saved the landscape finish for last, as that part had to wait for the walls, terraces, stairs, driveway and pergolas to at least be underway before we could begin. A close friend suggested that I post before and after pictures. When designing a landscape for a period home such as this, the outcome needs to be convincingly tuned in to the aura created by the architecture. Meaning it should be tough to differentiate between what was, and what is new. So before and after pictures can help illustrate that process. My client discovered a stack of old photographs in the basement after she purchased the home. The above picture she dates around 1925.

My first visit to her new house revealed a stately old home with an aging landscape. The driveway was very close to the front door. A limited planting space in front of the house years after planting produced a hedge of yews well over the bottom of the ground floor windows.

A brick wall between the sidewalk and the drive was covered with euonymus sarcoxie. Planted between the driveway and the walk, an ailing maple whose girdling roots had heaved itself and the sidewalk out of level.

A new drive positioned a more generous distance from the front door enabled room for planter boxes under the windows, and some breathing room for landscape and lawn. The house has become the focal point of the landscape, and there is sun at the front door given the removal of the maple. A lovely and existing multi stemmed serviceberry at the corner was preserved, and integrated into the new landscape.

The view into the side yard was typical of an old landscape. More than likely some plants had died over the years, and not been replaced. As the trees grew, the advancing shade proved difficult for plants in their vicinity to thrive. The ground sloped dramatically away from the house.

The finished front yard landscape renovation features that serviceberry tree. And a reconfigured grade. The replacement of the existing driveway meant its location could be changed, and the abrupt change of grade from the house to the property line could be softened. The boxwood planted across the front of the house was extended all the way across to the lot line. That placement visually extends the front yard landscape. In the center, a large break in the boxwood signaled the entry into the side garden. That side garden would become its own room with a view from a restored terrace off the sun porch. It would also serve as a transition space from the front to the back yard. The house sits on a corner, which present both problems and opportunities.

The idea was to respect the period, age and architecture of the house in such a way that it also reflected my client’s somewhat more modern aesthetic. A restricted palette of plants, and a massed planting can be both both classical and contemporary in feeling.

The side yard finish reveals the concession made to the original grade at the house.  A flagstone retaining wall 20″ high allowed for a flat surface on which to walk. I do not know how many yards of sand and soil were added to create the flat lawn areas you see in the above picture, but it was a huge number.

restored version of original side yard terrace off the sun porch

This side yard photo from my first visit dramatically illustrates the sloping grade.

detail  of that area 2017

This recent picture of the side garden was taken just after the installation of the fence and gates.The curved sections of fencing repeat the circular shape of the lawn panel, and then proceed straight to a terminus at the house, and the brick wall on the property line.




lawn panel rear yard, 2019

This photo illustrates how the original terrace on the right side of this picture was enlarged to encompass all three sides of the sun porch. A wide flight of limestone stairs down to the fountain garden and cloister deals with the abrupt change of grade in a graceful way.  The seat height brick walls with limestone caps repeats and mirrors the exterior details of the house. This new part of the landscape looks as though it had always been there.

The cloister style pergola has been planted with John Davis and Jeanne LeJoie roses, and Guernsey Cream clematis.






rose garden arbor, fence and gates at the end of the driveway.





After I had made my presentation to my client about a plan for her landscape, she shared several photographs with me. In the 1920’s, the landscape off the rear yard sun porch featured a fountain with a pergola overhead. I was shocked to see that the original landscape in 1920 was a close and original version of the landscape I proposed to my client. That shock gave way to a thought on my part that the design properly respected the history of this property.

2017 sun porch landscape

the view to the house, 2017

the view into the house, 2019.


the view out and away from the house, 1920.

the view out, 2019

the reflecting pool

I am so pleased with the outcome of this project, and even more grateful for that once in a blue moon client that was on board for each and every detail.



  1. Nella Miller says

    Wow! Wow! Wow! So interesting to see that you were spot on, as always Deborah! Before and after pictures really give a sense of the scale and size of this some one who proposes a plan for clients, as I do for wedding flowers and event florals, I totally appreciated your comment and appreciation, of this client following every little detail of your proposal…these clients are hard to come by! Kudos on another amazing post!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Nella, I should rephrase that. My client talked over every bit of the design with me in detail. She had the confidence to allow herself to be persuaded. There were plenty of things she passed on,so we had to find a different solution. I respect that, as it is, after all, her house. Any design is so much better when there is collaboration between the designer and the client. best, Deborah

  2. cathy bandoian says

    This is nothing short of spectacular. The design is simply gorgeous. I am constantly impressed by your talents. Congratulations.

  3. A home run in every respect!

  4. Christina says

    Most impressive. I love the photograph titled “lawn panel rear yard 2019” showing just a snippet of a Limelight flower: a sure sign that Deborah Silver has touched down.

  5. lisa naro says


  6. This grand house finally has the grand scale landscaping it needed. Wonderful to see the old photos of the house and you unknowingly put up the incredible pergola and fountain similar to what was. The landscaping is quite incredible and your client must be thrilled with end results. What splendid views they will have looking out their windows but also enjoying the outdoors.

  7. LOVE seeing this post… The before and after pictures are striking. The cost of such a huge undertaking is something that always has me personally stopped in my tracks… With money… and your know how.. well things just get over the top GORGEOUS!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sus, The money issue can be handled by staging. I had a plan for my own landscape, and stuck with installing it one piece at a time over many years. I had a lot more time than money. Yes, it does require the patience and determination to stick with something over a long period of time. A master plan can be a very useful document. all the best, Deborah

  8. What can you even say about this project? What a transformation! What a design! I love all of your work, but this is some next-level design and installation. Bravo to all who were involved.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mark, I am delighted with the result, and all the more so as my client is very happy with it indeed. best regards, Deborah

  9. Linda Hagan says

    A magnificent thoughtful transformation, dazzling in its thoroughness, unity, variety and beauty. Congratulations, Deborah! And thank you for this exceptional posting.

  10. This was/is an amazing project and I thank you and your client for your generosity allowing us to see it evolve over the past year through your blog and a few weeks ago on the Garden Tour. The hardscape and grade changes are spot-on and appear as though they have always-been. Looking forward to the evolution and maturity of this impressive landscape as the plants knit-together!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Dan, it took a whomping lot of time to pick out all of the before and after pictures, but thanks for that suggestion. It tells the story. all the best, Deborah

  11. Exquisite! Hope to see future photos with the flowers wrapped around those trellises!! My one question is the deck that is near the tomato cages, if that is what they are-doesn’t have any railing-looks high-no code preventing someone from falling off, or is it not that high? Thanks!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Karen, the grade is 30″ below the top of the terrace, which is as tall as it can be without requiring rails. best, Deborah

  12. Susan Soults says

    Love old houses and this one is spectacular. Boxwood and Limelights are my favorite plants. Wish you were in my area of Virginia to give your advice for my yard. Will you please tell me the name of the boxwoods you planted

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Susan, I usually plant Green Gem boxwood-as it handles our winters so well. I have also planted Green Velvet-I have that variety at home. I also like the blue/green cultivar, Vardar Valley. all the best, Deborah

  13. Debbie Buckingham says

    Deborah, you are so talented and a visionary in your design! I have enjoyed “experiencing” the progress through your blog, almost as if it were my own! Every time you have posted on this I would excitedly grab my husband and say sit down and look at this! It’s so much fun to see a dream become a plan and a plan to become reality through your eyes and hard work! The original pictures of the house shown here make it all the more satisfying to see the finished product! How amazing that you knew, before you actually knew, that the space needed the reflecting pool and pergola, keeping the original intent of the design from way back in the 1920’s! It is a pleasure to live vicariously through your work! Thank you for sharing it with us. I would love to see the whole project from an overhead perspective using a drone camera! And as you say…..all the best!

  14. Lisa at Greenbow says

    With all the before and after photos it is easy to see that your Muse was connected with the past and ready for the future. This is a phenomenal transformation that will take this house into the next century. I too would love to see the vines after they grow up over the trellising. This is stuff that dreams are made of.

  15. Brenda Marean says

    It’s been a treat to observe this property throughout its’ rejuvenation. A magnificent job, beautifully done, respectful use of the property and its’ history!
    thank you for sharing

  16. Dear Deborah,

    thank you for sharing this incredible design process. Like the very best face lifts, it looks like the house had a good night’s rest and awakened looking incredibly fit, refreshed and glowing.

    I am curious as to the specimen tree in the side yard. Is it a beech? I was hoping to see a Branch Gloriette as part of the side yard entrance or terminus.



    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mark, the specimen tree is a stewartia pseudocamellia. They are hard to see, but there is hedge form carpinus behind the amelanchier. They are planted on the other side as well. They help to provide some privacy in a very expansive space. Thanks for your letter. best regards, Deborah

  17. Please, in the future, show the arbor with the roses in bloom.

  18. Pat Ferguson says

    Thank you for sharing! I couldn’t wait to see pictures of the finished project. The original pictures the owner showed you after you presented your project gave me goose bumps… you brought that landscape back to life…honoring the house with your beautiful design.

  19. Frieda Hickman says

    Thank you for sharing photo’s before and after especially for those of us who were able to make trip to see this house in person. Awesome work as usual!

  20. Incredible! When I receive an email from you i get giddy with anticipation of seeing what you’ve come up with now. Your a true inspiration! Thanks for taking the time to teach us Deborah. This is one of my favorite designs yet.

  21. Lynn Fiorentino says

    Absolutely Stunning!
    Would like to know the variety of boxwood you used along the front of the house? Is it the same boxwood in the side garden?
    Thank you for sharing your talent and knowledge.

  22. Wendy Stahl says

    The similarities of those 1920″s original photos and the design you created are so much alike its wild! What a magnificent landscape design.

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