In the spring of 2014, we move on to the hardscaping portion of the project. The landscape contractor builds a fieldstone retaining wall on either side of the driveway. In order to create a connection to the architecture of the house, it is designed to match the existing stonework on the front entryway.
Lights are incorporated into the wall, and the pillar at the street end of the driveway features a lantern that the client chose to match the existing light fixtures on her garage. The beds are ready to be planted the following spring.
The walkways are started at the same time. The main route the client uses to get around the house is on the north side. There is an existing flagstone pathway here, but it is difficult to shovel in the winter, and allows mud to be tracked into the house. The masons lift the stones and store them on site to be used later. A bed of crushed gravel is laid down under the walkway, and the pavers are fitted carefully into place.
The shady, protected feeling of the passageway called for a simple plant palette—one that invites a sense of calm as the owners pass from the busy outside world into the sanctuary of their own home. Evergreen clumping bamboo (not invasive) and variegated native sea oats (one of the few grasses that will tolerate shade) are underplanted with lily of the valley. The flexible bamboo and grasses, unlike evergreen shrubs, will better withstand the snow load from the roof and the walkway. Lily of the valley can be invasive, but here it will be contained by the bluestone walkway. The client and her family will enjoy its fragrance as they pass by several times a day. Crocus bulbs will provide a bit of welcome spring color; afterwards, their yellowing leaves will be hidden by the lily of the valley. The other side of the walkway is lined with native fothergilla shrubs, whose fragrant flowers in spring will also scent the passageway. Their colorful fall foliage will show up nicely in front of the neighbor’s hedge of white pines.
Drip irrigation lines are installed around all the new plantings. This is the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to water, and also keeps excess moisture away from the house. In addition, a band of stone is installed around most of the foundation, to discourage moisture and insects near the foundation of the house.
I prepare the new plantings for cold weather by wrapping the bamboo in burlap and cutting back the perennials. (Once established, the evergreen bamboo and buff-colored grass foliage will provide welcome winter interest.) The new walkway is ready to provide a tidy means of access to the house during the winter.
On the opposite side of the house, some exposed ledge, combined with the the southwestern exposure, gives this part of the property a more rugged, open feeling. Since there is a change in elevation over the spot, and this is not a primary passageway to the backyard, I decided that the the craggy, informal look of the the flagstones that we had saved from the other side of the house would complement the exposed ledge perfectly. The brilliant red fall color of native sweetspire shrubs echoes that of the scarlet oak in the background.
To complete the hardscaping portion of the project, two lampposts are installed in the front yard. They were chosen by the client to match the fixtures on the garage, and on the pillars at the end of the driveway and the walkway to the street.
"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