Photograph by David Heald
Above: A clever solution solves a disjointed pathway.
Come springtime, gardeners and landscapers especially look forward to heading outside. All winter they’ve made plans, and now they’re ready to shape and nurture their corners of the Earth—even if they face challenges. Whether you live in a new house along the beach or call an historic house in Greenfield Hill home, your landscaper knows the particular obstacles of each neighborhood. Read on to find out what local pros have learned about finding problems and digging in to fix them.
When it comes to the beautiful historic properties of Fairfield, Diane Devore of Devore Associates (devoreassoc.com) has a personal stake in landscaping them well—her own 1840 farmhouse in Greenfield Hill. She loves the house but had to rethink its misaligned front path.
Previously owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt, the house was part of the Crane Estate when Davore bought it. She learned that Crane had married a Japanese woman who believed in feng shui and would not allow doors to line up. “A home with a clear view between the front and back doors may seem airy and spacious, but according to feng shui, this alignment creates problems in the flow of chi,” says Davore. That can lead to adverse effects, such as a bank account that “leaks” money. Regardless, she lined up the front door with the living room door. “It certainly is true that the bank account has leaked ever since!”
The front door also did not line up with the center of the existing front wall and gate. “I wanted a bluestone walk leading to the street, so I used a square as the reconciling object. A jog in a walk would have drawn attention to the misalignment. Now there is a lovely little landing that responds to the architecture of the porch and is perfect for pots of lemon trees.”
“The most difficult landscape problem is soil compaction from new construction or renovations,” says Wendy Lindquist of Lindquist Design Associates (lindquistlandscape.com). Poor drainage can also be a challenge and isn’t always due to compaction; it could be caused by a high water table. “There are so many plants that will fail to thrive under those conditions, and [those conditions] are not visible to the eye.”
For the new homes going up along the shoreline, take notice. “Beachfront properties are tricky because of the salt spray and severe weather, but there are plants that will thrive. So the trick is to use restraint and have really good ‘bones’ in the garden,” she says. “We’re working on a new construction now where we have taken protections against compaction.”
Established in 1993, her company designs, installs and maintains landscaping projects. She champions native and local materials, which are less likely to develop disease and more likely to support pollinators and wildlife. She also appreciates that her work is dedicated to living creations—plants, flowers, bushes, ground cover, trees, vines and more—that grow and react to their conditions. She is very careful about choosing ideal placement.
Additionally, as a designer, she has to carefully consider such qualities as color, texture, space and movement along with the more practical considerations that homeowners may not see. Overall, she explains that her designs aim to strike a balance in a space and authentically reflect nature—that is, not an over-abundance of plants or ornamentation.
It all takes careful planning, because each project has its own advantages and challenges. But, she concludes, “Tricky situations are the fodder of innovative design!”