Case Studies

Project: Wellesley Hills Courtyard Gardens


Our relationship began when the clients redeemed a gift certificate that I had donated for a fundraiser at a local library. After our initial on-site consultation, the clients asked for a proposal to redesign both the front and back courtyards of their Wellesley Hills condo, located in a renovated industrial building.

The owners had just downsized from a large property in Weston, but were craving some connection to nature, as well as inviting outdoor spaces to expand the smaller footprint of the condo.


In the back courtyard, which is shaded most of the day, and where the clients like to spend time in the afternoon and evening, we removed the existing brick patio, and installed two adjacent patios: a formal bluestone patio closer to the building, which defines the outdoor dining and grilling area, and an informal patio made from Goshen stone, quarried in Western Massachusetts, farther from the house.

Lillie Back 1 BeforeLillie Back 1 After
Lillie Back 2 BeforeLillie Back 2 After

The Goshen patio provides a setting for two casual lounge chairs, which are nestled into plantings chosen for their fragrance and shade tolerance. A bubbler fountain
selected by the client distracts from the noise of the nearby busy intersection and is often filled with happily splashing birds.

Lillie Back 3 BeforeLillie Back 3 After
Lillie Back 4 BeforeLillie Back 4 After

Planters filled with lush, colorful, shade-loving annuals provide the feel of a tropical oasis in which the owners can relax, escape from the busy world just outside the fence, and enjoy the songbirds and hummingbirds that visit their tiny courtyard.

Lillie Shade HouseplantLillie Front 3

The clients were also eager to grow edible plants, which were a natural fit for the sunny front courtyard. In that space we left the existing brick patio, which suited the type of plantings that I envisioned for the space, but we removed several overgrown shrubs and thorny brambles. We created an area for two cedar planting boxes for vegetables and herbs, and planted the rest of the courtyard with sun-loving herbs like lavender and thyme, along with native perennials to attract songbirds, hummingbirds and butterflies. The clients enjoy the colorful plantings and the winged visitors while sipping their coffee at the bistro table every morning.

Lillie Front 1 BeforeLillie Front 1 After
Lillie Front 2 BeforeLillie Front 2 After

Project coordination

 During the course of the project, I coordinated the following details:

  • Selected the type of bluestone that would best coordinate with the adjacent Goshen patio
  • Worked with the client to select outdoor furniture that would complement the space, as well as position all of the outdoor planters that she had ordered
  • Met with the electrician to find the most logical and unobtrusive places to run the electric service out of the building
  • Worked with the installer to decide where to lay conduit under the patio to run the electric lines, as well as a water line to the fountain
  • Observed as the installer worked very carefully to ensure that the patio would drain away from the house, and that minimal damage was done to the roots of the existing mature trees
  • Communicated with the installer, the clients, and their neighbors about how best to receive plant deliveries and store materials in the tight parking area adjacent to the worksite, to minimize disruption to the rest of the condo complex
  • Supervised the transplanting of a tree that was in the way, and ensured that it received enough water to thrive during two dry summers
  • Supervised the pruning of the weeping cherry in the front courtyard to allow more light to reach the raised beds for vegetables, while still providing a sense of enclosure
  • Sourced food-safe, not-toxic hoses and easy-to- use watering equipment and arranged them so that the clients would have a convenient way to tend their new gardens in between our maintenance visits.

Garden care

During the design and installation phase, my company installed and planted two raised vegetable beds and six large containers of herbs, vegetables and edible flowers, as well as sixteen ornamental planters. We returned every other week throughout the growing season to care for the containers, in addition to the newly installed in-ground gardens.

Lillie Front 1

Client response

"We absolutely love our new outdoor spaces that Catherine designed and created. We recently downsized from our home in Weston that had almost 2 acres of land and beautiful, large outdoor spaces. We were lucky to find a condominium in Wellesley with small, private outside spaces in the front and back of the unit, but the outdoor spaces were not very inviting. Catherine’s vision and design for these areas have transformed the space. We now live in our beautiful yards and feast off their fresh produce. Birds come to bathe in our bubbler fountain and butterflies come to the flowers. We feel that our condo has doubled in size. Catherine has always been professional and responsive to our needs. Catherine’s maintenance work keeps the spaces looking their best."
Maureen M. and Jim L., Wellesley, 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.

Gift Certificates

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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