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  • Writer's pictureLeslie and Scott

The Memorable Garden

Updated: Dec 31, 2019

What makes a garden memorable? Gardens are defined by their owners. They speak their sensibility, communicate their vision. This beautiful garden story begins with 2 children. Two glorious trees were planted when each child was born. The Weeping Cherry at one end of the garden and the Weeping Katsura at the other end of the garden. Every other part of the garden was overgrown and there was no lawn remaining. Our client wanted a garden that inspired creative thinking combined with the aesthetics of New England simplicity and the Japanese reverence for order, balance and their symbolic depictions of nature. She had grown up in Japan, so she wanted to bring the feeling of peacefulness and restraint which is characteristic of the Japanese garden into her own garden.

We worked around the magnificent mature trees and sought to weave a garden into the existing topography without any change to the grade so as not to disturb the roots of the large trees. Three quarters of the garden was hidden by white Delaware Valley Azaleas. We first removed the azalea and discovered a long expanse of level ground, perfect for the pool. We pushed the soil into a slope and retained it with a stone wall so that the pool was inset into the slope which enabled us to maintain a wide swath of lawn on the other side. The pool fit perfectly into the newly opened space between the two trees.

The next efforts were to build a stream bed down to the pool from the upper levels of the rear garden where the studio is sited. It needed to feel just like a natural streambed one might stumble upon in Maine or northern New England. Several shallow pools would compose the steam bed and Jake, their wonderful yellow lab would be able to cool off in these refreshing pools that were fed by the saline waters of the pool and then recirculated through the saline pool system. A series of falls, asymmetric and mirroring nature were built to create the shallow pools. Our dear client and friend went with us to select the Susquehanna River boulders. She sat on them, stood on them, studied each one, they had to feel like a real babbling brook along the Maine coast.

There had long been drainage problems, the water had flowed down the hill into the rear foundation of the house, so we corrected this problem when we built the stone terrace off the rear of the house and regraded to catch water and carry it to the front. The process of sculpting the streambed and placing stones as if you had stumbled upon them in nature began and ended happily. Once the streambed was in place, and the pool excavated, we could begin to lay out the stone path to the writer’s studio/music studio. The path to the studio would need to wind up and around the streambed to the studio presenting changing vistas to the ‘mountain’ ahead and studio at the peak.

The weeping cherry cascading over the pool and streambed mirrored nature as did the careful selection of boulders. We snaked the path from the left of the garden up and over to the far right in a happily meandering, poetic way with charming pockets of fern plantings along the way. The garden became a condensation of nature as we know it and imagine it with masses of evergreen and deciduous shrubs relating to the rocks and the water.

Music and writing genius figures prominently in this wonderfully talented family. The studio at the highest point in the garden needed to have a winding, dreamy path, conducive to the creative process and the sound of the babbling brook that fed the pool needed to mirror the sound of a real babbling brook. Conor’s music studio sits overlooking the stream, fountain and pool garden below. The sound coming from the mouth of the

stream is magical, lyrical and never ceases to inspire. From Conor’s teaching studio, this young, extraordinarily talented musician composes and practices. To hear Conor play the piano is to hear the birds singing in early spring. (

The goal was to create a garden that nourishes creativity, a garden that was an expression of tranquility. Here, the long perennial border spills cascade over the pool stone wall. A bank of hydrangea fills the slope off the terrace at the kitchen. Plantings are in masses and composed as you would find along a woodland path. The pool sits comfortably between the two weeping trees as though it has been here a hundred years and has another 300 more to go. It is ageless, a part of nature.


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