Case Studies

West Newton Residential Design—Part One: Framework Trees and Foundation Plantings

I first meet with my client at her home in West Newton in the summer of 2013. She and her husband have recently renovated their home from the ground up, and she is ready to move on to creating an outdoor landscape which will complement the style of her new home.

She is eager to create screening with large trees and shrubs along the property line, in order to shield her home from the massive residential construction project going on next door. On her wish list are several hardscape features, including a retaining wall with lights on either side of the driveway; stone pillars with lanterns at the street; two lampposts for the front yard; and walkways on both sides of the house. She wants less grass in the front yard, several good-sized shade and flowering trees, foundation plantings, and edibles. She is eager to incorporate native plants wherever possible, and favors a relaxed look for the landscape.


Over the fall and winter, I draw up a detailed plan for the entire property. I present the plan to my client, and we figure out a way to divide the project into phases according to her priorities and budget.

West Newton Residence | Master Plan | Catherine Volic

We begin in the fall of 2013 with the very first step of my action plan, which is taking care of the two existing large oak trees in the front yard. I noticed on my first assessment of the site that they were experiencing significant branch die-back. The soil around them, and in the rest of the front yard, was severely compacted during construction. I contact a reputable tree company, and we come up with a plan to alleviate the damage to the trees. The arborist takes soil tests, then adds nutrients and high-quality organic compost according to the results. The crew uses a tool call an air spade to reintroduce air around the root zone of the trees and in the rest of the front yard. Once the soil is in good shape again, we move on to installing 5 large shade trees on the southwestern side of the property to provide afternoon shade for the house and front yard. The arborists use a Dingo to transport the trees to the planting site. This piece of very light equipment protects the soil from further compaction.

Catherine Volic | Landscape Design | Shade Tree Installation Newly Planted Tree | West Newton Design | Catherine Volic

By the fall of 2014, the scarlet oak, a native tree that supports hundreds of native insect species that are in turn food for native songbirds, is showing its brilliant fall color.

Scarlet Oak | Native Tree | Sustainable Garden Design

Next, we plant shrubs along the front foundation and the fence on the northern property line. Like the scarlet oak, native shrubs like ninebark and fothergilla offer vivid fall color, which is an element of design to which I pay close attention.

Before Planting | Landscape Design | Metro West Boston

Before planting

After Planting | Landscape Design | Metrowest Boston

After, with ninebark (red foliage)

Fothergilla | Native Plant Design | Catherine Volic


Finally, I install frost-proof planters on either side of the front door, and plant them with a variety of materials to add interest over the winter.

Winter Planter | Container Garden Design | Sweetgum Horticulture


Client response

"Catherine Volic of Sweetgum Horticulture has been working on my garden and yard for more than four years, from existing only on paper to now full of beautifully chosen and placed plants. She has found and worked with subcontractors where appropriate and managed my projects as well as handled maintenance and annual planting. She is a pleasure to work with: organized, reliable, thoughtful, and open to my ideas while highly creative with her own. My yard garners praise from everyone who visits and I am quick to give her the credit she deserves. I feel lucky to have found her!"
Meg S., West Newton, MA

Area of Service

Sweetgum Horticulture is serving clients in the Metro West communities of Boston, MA, including Wellesley, Weston, Newton, Needham, Natick, Wayland, Lincoln, Dover, Sherborn, Sudbury, and Framingham.

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Gift certificates are available for all of Sweetgum Horticulture's services. These make great birthday, thank-you or Mother’s Day gifts.

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