Case Studies

Natick Center Plant Lover’s Garden

Background & Client Goals

My client lives in a duplex house with a shared entrance and front yard. There is steep terrain leading down the side of the house to the backyard. The soil had become eroded and washed out over the years, making it difficult for plants to take root and thrive. With a love of gardening and growing vegetables, but also tending to the shared front yard, my client wanted a garden she could easily maintain on her own. Her goal was to continue growing vegetables and edible plants around her patio, and establish a thriving garden of native plants growing along a stone path. She also hoped her garden would become an attractive habitat for hummingbirds and pollinators.

View of a reconstructed stone path, with newly planted perennials and a small Aronia tree by the fence to the backyard

View of a reconstructed stone path, with newly planted perennials and a small Aronia tree by the fence to the backyard

Initial work began with designing a master plan that included all areas of my client’s yard, then dividing the work into phases to take place over a few consecutive seasons. Clients appreciate this way of working as it is a good investment and saves money over time. It also prevents redundant work and changes to things like irrigation systems down the line.

In this Natick Plant Lover’s Garden, Phase I of the project focused on reconstructing and planting the terrain of the side yard, and was completed in Spring 2021. After seeing the results of Phase I, my client’s duplex neighbor decided to participate in the implementation of the shared front yard portion of the plan, scheduled for Spring 2022. Work on the backyard section, including installing vegetable boxes and addressing soil erosion, will take place in a future phase.

Aultz Front from Across Street BeforeAultz Front from Across Street After
View of the front yard with Magnolia virginiana treeView of the newly planted side yard

 

Installation & Outcome

Phase I, Spring 2021

The work resulted in a side yard that our client can navigate comfortably and maintain easily. The newly planted garden features a diverse assortment of native trees, shrubs and perennials that will provide a hardy ground cover, offer visual delight throughout the seasons, and contribute to a relaxed cottage- garden look.

In the front side of the house, we installed flat stones to create a small patio that can accommodate two sitting chairs. We planted a native Magnolia virginiana tree near the corner of the house to break up the solid continuous wall, and added evergreens to provide foliage in every season.

Aultz Front from Across Street BeforeAultz Front from Across Street After
BeforeAfter

 

 

Further down the side yard, we created level terraces that span the steep slope running along the house, taking care not to damage tree roots and compact the soil. Plywood and erosion logs were used for protection while the work was in progress. Since the soil had eroded over the years, several inches of topsoil and compost mix were brought in but kept well away from the root flare of the mature oak tree.

Aultz Front from Across Street BeforeAultz Front from Across Street After
Work in progress on the side yardWork in progress on the side yard

 

 

The side yard featured an existing but worn stone path that was too steep and uncomfortable to walk on. The stones were lifted and reset into the newly terraced slope, and additional matching stones were added to expand the path.

Aultz Front from Across Street BeforeAultz Front from Across Street After
BeforeAfter

 

 

The reconstructed path created areas and pockets for new plantings. The master design featured a strategic placement of plants, such as a shrub that would hide an electrical meter. We also put in a decorative stone drip border along the foundation to keep moisture away from the house.

reconstructed path created areas and pockets for new plantingsAultz Front from Across Street After
BeforeAfter

 

 

We carefully selected an assortment of native woodland perennials that are easy to maintain but would provide a durable plant cover. We worked side by side with the client to find new homes for many of her treasured Hosta plants in the new garden. The plants will fill out as they grow, providing good soil coverage and helping to minimize future soil erosion.

Aultz Front from Across Street BeforeAultz Front from Across Street After
Aultz Front from Across Street BeforeAultz Front from Across Street After
Views of an assortment of native perennials planted amongst the stone path

At the bottom of the stone path, a garden gate leads to a fenced-in backyard (which will be worked on during a subsequent phase of the project). We widened the stone path around the gate for easier use and improved practicality. We also planted a small Aronia tree that will provide fruit for the birds, and whose berries can be cooked and enjoyed by people as well.

Aultz Front from Across Street BeforeAultz Front from Across Street After
BeforeAfter

 

Project coordination

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

  • Met with irrigation company to map out the water zones with the goal of using the least amount of water possible, which will save the client money and conserve water resources.
  • Marked and photographed the irrigation lines for future reference.
  • Worked with installer to protect the existing soil from compaction when leveling, adding soil, and constructing the terraces.
  • Coordinated with both the irrigation company and installer to protect the trunk and roots of the large oak tree that grows adjacent to the house.
  • Addressed the problem of a rotting windowsill by lowering the level of the soil around it and adding a few support stones to retain the soil.
  • Had a stone border put in alongside the house’s foundation to keep moisture away from the house.
  • Showed client how to use the irrigation clock and gave her a watering program for the new plantings.

View of a reconstructed stone path, with newly planted perennials and a small Aronia tree by the fence to the backyard

View of the new stone path and trunk of Magnolia virginiana tree in the front side yard

Garden care

The side yard was designed to be easy for the client to maintain, which the client does on her own. Most of the perennials were chosen because they will self-propagate and completely cover the ground. This will result in a reduced need to mulch and weed the garden in future years.

Client response

“I searched for several years to find someone to help me overhaul my aging landscaping and never found anyone who seemed to get what I wanted. Then I found Catherine’s website. After discussing the project with me, showing me some of her previous work and evaluating the property, she put together a detailed-yet-flexible plan for us to work from. The design was both beautiful and functional, adding four-season interest, more food-growing space, a variety of native plants, improved drainage and erosion control where needed, and spaces to sit and enjoy it all. The installation of the first phase went very smoothly. Her team and the companies she recommended were all excellent and she really knows what she’s doing. I absolutely love how it turned out and am looking forward to working with her on the rest of it!”

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 and Sudbury.

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