Spring Ahead

Photograph: contributed by Mcardle’s
Above: When hardscape, landscape and nature all work together, your space is in true harmony.

Like impatient kids near the end of a long road trip, garden enthusiasts reach this time of year and can’t help thinking, Is it spring yet? Still the months leading up to the greenest season have their perks, providing much-needed time for dreaming and planning. To help get your creative juices flowing for the upcoming season, we talked to some local pros for inspiration, ideas and advice on gardening do’s and don’ts.


Recycled materials are big. “We just finished a landscape at a historic farm where the walls, terraces and walks were comprised of locally sourced repurposed materials,” says Justin Quinn, studio director of Doyle Herman Design Associates. “The bluestone terracing once served as public sidewalks; the granite walks once curbed roadways. We even approached a nearby neighbor and purchased a stockpile of wall stone, which sat in a farmer’s field for over twenty years. Not only is this sustainable, but the newly completed landscape begins its life with some much desired patina.”

Creating an interesting garden goes beyond what we see, explains Cleo Abrams-Horsburgh, partner landscape architect at Conte & Conte. “Sensory gardens and components that involve sound, light, music, color, texture—things that in the past were designed for healing or therapeutic gardens—are now in demand with much more mainstream audiences.” Among many elements Conte & Conte has used are laminar jugs, high-tech arching fountains that have visual and tactile interest, and musical elements such as chimes and gongs.

Heated patios, terraces and driveways have become more popular. So, too, have outdoor spotlight speaker systems that are controlled by smartphones and direct a rich sound toward the middle of a property so it doesn’t bother the neighbors. And techy tools are being used in planning landscapes, says Abrams-Horsburgh, including drone photography to create 3-D models of properties and virtual reality goggles that give clients a realistic sense of what it would feel like to walk through a garden.

Creating art with plants, hardscape and nature’s beauty isn’t a new theory, but it is slowly being revived, says James McArdle of McArdle’s. Think simple lines, more greenery and symmetry in the landscape with container plantings to add color.


It’s better to stick to odd numbers when planting a group that’s less than nine, says Maggie Bridge, manager of sales and marketing for Sam Bridge Nursery. She also advises gardeners against “volcano mulching,” which is when mulch is piled too high around a tree trunk and can lead to insect and rodent damage and create too much moisture. Instead, leave a two- to-three-inch ring that’s free of mulch around the tree trunk.

“Too often we’re called to projects where the home’s footprint is too large,” says Quinn. Instead, work with your design team to select a footprint that achieves your goals while preserving important site resources. Also, Pinterest can be inspiring, but don’t try to incorporate all of your favorite ideas into one landscape or you’ll wind up with a mishmash of elements.

The biggest mistake made by inexperienced landscapers is planting the wrong plant in the wrong space, says McArdle. Know what you’re planting and the size it will be. “Stop trying to fit a large hydrangea where you need a dwarf hydrangea; stop planting green giant arborvitaes where you need emerald green arborvitaes.”

If you rely on an architect to be the driver of a new home and bring in a landscape architect only after the fact, you won’t have the best design outcome, says John Conte, co-owner of Conte & Conte. “A project works best starting with the landscape architect and civil engineers looking at the project and its constraints,” he says. “The landscape as it exists naturally should direct the architectural features; the architecture shouldn’t force the landscape.”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *