A Landscape Evolves Over Time

It is completely understandable that when people hire a landscape designer, they may not always consider how their home’s landscape will evolve over time. The homeowners of this property enjoy gardening, but they were feeling overwhelmed by the task of managing everything by themselves. This is where a helpful and creative professional can step in to provide guidance and support. With a little bit of collaboration and teamwork, we are able to assist the homeowners in creating a landscape design that they can manage and we help maintain. It is a real pleasure to work with such passionate clients!

This urban garden surrounds a mansion in a historic Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. The family mostly uses the backyard for entertaining, outdoor cooking, relaxation, and growing fruits and vegetables. On the side of the house, the garden extends along a quiet city street where people walk their dogs and take a stroll. There is an opportunity to bring further joy by planting a meadow and trees that selectively offer passersby a view into the garden. The front yard is both ornamental and edible, as fruit trees and blueberries are planted amongst flowering shrubs and perennials.

The mansion is inhabited by three generations of a family making use of the gardens in many ways. As we all grow older, our needs change, and this is exactly what’s happening in this garden. The kids grow up and the elders become less able, so adjustments are made to make the garden more accessible and practical. For instance, a boxwood hedge was replaced by a cut-flower garden closer to the backdoor for easy access.

Cut flower perennial border
Sunflowers in Veggie Garden

An existing vegetable garden needed a little TLC. The first challenge was to remove weeds and lawn organically, without using any harsh chemicals. We mowed the area down with a weed whacker and added layers of sturdy cardboard, along with a 12-inch-thick spread of wood chips and allowed it to rest over the winter. Secondly, the new vegetable garden needed to be attractive, as seen from the widely-used backdoor entrance. In early spring, we built raised beds for organizing the vegetable beds. The client loves sunflowers, and one of the smaller beds is filled with beautiful sunflowers, which can be spotted from afar. 

When it comes to hosting an outdoor gathering, it’s always important to have the right setup. With a versatile backyard, there’s plenty of opportunity to create a comfortable and enjoyable space for everyone. A large patio accommodates a selection of features, such as a fire pit, grill, and electric smoker, socializing on the lawn or patio is a breeze. With all of these amenities in easy reach, guests and family can gather around the warmth and light of a fire, grill up their favorite foods, or smoke meats to perfection, all with minimum effort. From casual weeknight hangouts to big celebrations, this backyard setup can help ensure that everyone has a great time and enjoys the beautiful outdoor surroundings.

Garden for Socializing

As we first considered the project we realized we were fortunate to inherit a garden that had been designed and built by a previous landscaper. In addition, the owners’ passion for gardening and plant collecting has given us a tremendous palette of plants to work with as well as a collaborator intimately connected to the plant life in her gardens.

While their garden had matured throughout the years, it became unmanageable for them, especially with noxious weeds like Dioscorea bulbifera (air potato vine), Pinellia ternata, Ornithogalum umbellatum (Star of Bethlehem), Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn clematis) taking over. However, with both challenges and opportunities, we have managed to revitalize gardens with both new and existing plants. Some have been transplanted to more appropriate locations throughout the property to make room for new designs. We are excited to continue tending to this wonderful garden and watching it thrive!

A couple other areas to note. We found that walking in certain areas was challenging due to overgrown plants that blocked the walkway, as well as unstable stone steps and pavers. One such area was the front corner. To address this issue, we came up with a solution that not only solved the problem but also brought a certain elegance. We designed a natural stone retaining wall that elevates the garden bed and keeps the plants off the walkway. Plus, we have included low-maintenance conifers and other plants that provide all-year-round visual interest.

Another area is the prominent Meadow. During the first season, we prepared the meadow by digging out noxious weeds and carefully applying weed killer to the air potato vine and covered the area with a thick layer of woodchips. In the following year, we continued to remove weeds, planted carefully and added more woodchips. The woodchips rejuvenate the soil while inhibiting new seed germination. 

Additionally, we transplanted two white pine seedlings that were too close to the house. Unfortunately, one did not survive, but the other is now thriving. We have been continually adding plants as the meadow matures and the neighbors are always full of compliments as they enjoy their stroll down the quiet urban street.

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