“No one can find the front door.” That was the challenge I was asked to resolve when it came to the front of this house in Needham. The solution was to build retaining walls and install a formal walkway system from all parking areas and driveways to the front door and informal walkways or paths to other parts of the property. Areas in front of doorways were transformed into either functional patio spaces or welcoming entrance ways. A variety of stairways, constructed from blue stone or natural slab stone, much of which was recycled stone from the property, created circulation between the various parking, garden, and patio levels. Slopes were covered with erosion-control ground covers and drought tolerant plants with annuals planted for added color. Custom-designed railings and containers decorate and guide walkers along all the paths and to various patios. Voilá, Christmas party guests are no longer confused about which door will open offering good tidings and of course, good wine!
Living on a slope is not easy if you are a gardener. Irrigation, planting, and installing all become more difficult. The steeper the slope the more problematic the challenges. Fortunately, the busy clients who own this property have the means and mood to keep their “house on the hill” beautifully maintained and lush with a variety of gardens. This site is enchanted with a water garden including a frog pond, a contemporary English garden, conifer garden, sunny borders, a terraced vegetable garden, woodland paths, terraced walls, kitchen, reading and dining patios, deck, formal walkways with wrought iron railings, informal stepping-stone paths, windy small staircases, giant stone slab steps, a lacrosse field, and a variety exotic and classic plant combinations.
My philosophy supports replacing trees with lawn IF there is a distinct use for turf and if it will be used. My client has 1 1/2 acres of forested land and 3 lacrosse players who need to practice, so we cut down some trees. After the trees were removed, we screened the pie-shaped field from the street with a tall curved hedge of hydrangeas which bloom white in summer, change to pink in fall, and remain beige all winter. Cut them in spring and begin anew. Light conditions around the field now allow for sunny perennials to border one edge of the field and Eastern Redbuds, native viburnums, peony, roses and weeping grasses to trim the other. The upper woodland path (which lies below the field) is bordered by a gently curved stone wall on one side and azaleas, Oakleaf hydrangeas, rhododendrons, Solomon’s Seal, and ajuga on the other. Small stones found during the course of garden maintenance were placed along the path edge to create a sense of repose. Maggie, the resident Labrador retriever, loves to fetch her sticks from the woodland path to have them tossed over the field. It’s a perfect marriage of open field and wooded path.