The clients had just finished building a home into a steep outcropping of granite. On the slope in front of the house, the builder had left them with a utilitarian wall made of manufactured blocks surrounded by compacted soil. The clients were excited to win a gift certificate for a design consultation that I had donated for a fundraiser at the local elementary school. After our initial meeting, the clients asked for a proposal to create terraces and plantings that would soften the concrete block wall and add curb appeal to their new home.
They were looking for a low-maintenance landscape that could be installed in phases over the next few years. From a more practical view, they had an immediate need for a new walkway to the front door, as well as a paver driveway built into a difficult slope and a new mailbox post.
Through the careful selection of trees and shrubs that would fit the narrow terraces, I managed to soften the tall front façade of the house and the concrete wall in front of it, creating a gradual visual transition to the level of the street.
With its very narrow terraces and exposed south-facing slope, the site was an incredibly difficult one, in terms of both installation and future development of the plants. The planting was completed in a day, with minimal disturbance to the neighbors along the steep, narrow street. Three large trees were unloaded from a tractor- trailer and maneuvered carefully up onto the terraces with small-scale equipment.
Using plants that could withstand full sun all day, as well as salt spray in the winter, I designed a landscape with four-season texture and color in order to create visual interest year-round. As the terraces and slope make walking through the landscape difficult, I chose plants that were as low-maintenance as possible.
Along the side of the house, the installer and I selected stone to create a narrow planting bed along the length of the neighbor’s sagging retaining wall. We planted a mix of colorful perennials to cover the wall and attract butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinators, to the delight of the clients’ young daughter.
The end result is a lively terraced garden, rich with native plants, that connects the front and side yards with the wild landscape of the rock outcropping behind the house. At the same time, it provides a welcoming view from the street.
During the course of the project, I coordinated the following details:
- Worked with the installer, Bob Grignaffini of Grinaffini Earthscapes, to come up with a plan to create terraces for planting beds using natural stone that we selected to complement the stone outcroppings that surround the site
- Selected a rustic granite mailbox post with the installer
- Ensured that the compacted post-construction soil was replaced with high quality-loam, and that the plantings were dressed with a locally sourced enriching mulch
- Directed the client to meet with the town building inspector to make sure that new hardscaping close to the street would not interfere with the town right-of-way
- Confirmed that adequate conduit was placed under the walls and walkways to allow for the future addition of irrigation lines and electric lines for landscape lighting
- Met with the irrigation company to establish irrigation zones that would water the site most efficiently, determine the most convenient locations to place the control box and outdoor spigots, and decide on the least disruptive routes to run underground lines
- Selected plants at the nursery and made substitutions as necessary, laid out plants on site for the installer, and verified that plants were being planted according to best practices
- Ensured the survival of the new plantings during the first growing season, despite a drought, by carefully tweaking the irrigation system a few times a week
- Sourced not-toxic hoses and easy-to-use watering equipment and arranged them so that the clients would have a convenient way to tend their new gardens in between our maintenance visits
My company returned every other week throughout the growing season to weed the beds, groom the perennials, and water by hand as necessary. In late fall, we tidied up the terraces and prepared the new trees and shrubs for their first winter.
"Catherine took what was a challenging lot and made it into something simply beautiful. She also went out of her way to create a plan that works for us and our lifestyle. She was great working with people like us who had no idea what would be best for our lot. She is the utmost professional and was highly organized and efficient throughout the entire process. We continue to get frequent compliments and we never could have accomplished this without her expertise!"
Steve and Kate, Natick, MA