Creating Place, a unique ‘Home’ Place, and Solving Drainage Problems

Design and Photo by Maria von Brincken copyright 2011
"After" Design and Photo by Maria von Brincken copyright 2011

Arriving at this home before this landscape renovation (see ‘before’ photo below), you may well wonder why this landscape needed renovation. After all, the lawn looks great and the plantings are okay. That’s it.  Just looked ok.  But the great lawn can’t make it a special place to live.

Walking the path on a dry day, you may wonder why the wood planks at the step bottom.  You may wonder why the walk wasn’t built at the best grade to begin with. Indeed it seemed the walk was built as a “swale”. That’s a term used to depict a shallow ditch used to direct water.  In this case as the majority of the front landscape is much higher than the foundation of the house, it was used to keep water away from the foundation. But it didn’t work for humans walking in and out of the front door especially on rainy days. Rainy days that seems to occur more often and with great volumnes of rainfall in our New England area.

Designing these series of beautiful welcoming entry gardens included the important grading and drainage issues but overall the goal was to create a ‘home’ place.  A place that embraced people while enhancing and setting the house within the landscape.

Working with my clients, my intention was to create a landscape that reflected my homeowners and was an extension of themselves. Previously there was a mature conifer forest that he wanted to restore. Also, wanted enough lawn to serve as a playing area as the back lawn was small. And the existing walk was terrible as well as a grading issue. She wanted a landscape of texture and contrasting forms with boulders –she handed me a photo of pacific northwest style contemporary landscape. But they own a traditional New England style house.

The resulting custom landscape design works 24/7, 365 days a year. A newly installed brownstone walk now curves on higher ground. The native blue spruces will need light pruning each spring to keep them from overgrowing their spaces–that’s the concession to get the plantings and keep the lawn as big as possible. But meanwhile, the after photo shows the project just mulched after the deciduous trees have lost their burgundy colored leaves of spring and summer. However, still plenty of “color” from the blue in the spruces, the yellow of the chamaecyparis, the green and white of the vinca ground-cover, and the winter leaf color of the broad leaf evergreens of pieris and  native leucothoe. The low growing “yak” rhodies and boxwood add to the textural composition as well as the architectural drifts and forms.

Many design details like the shaping of the beds and the walk to create sinuous broad curves within the landscape that all connect to create a shaped space reveal themselves in your body as you walk to the door or wander to the bench or from the second floor window views. And I haven’t even mentioned the night lighting.

So many design details contribute to the sense of place or “genius loci” now residing here. It’s magical.

Before Grading Problem--Walk too low for step also 'attracted' water
Before Grading Problem–Walk too low for step also ‘attracted’ water

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