The renovation of an existing garden is always a more difficult
challenge than new construction. The Slater garden was no
exception. Many gardens evolve with not much thought for
the overall picture; a nice plant from the garden center
here, replace that dead plant there, and so on! The garden
had become a liability to a beautiful home in a great neighborhood.
home is situated on a corner with the home facing north
toward moderately busy Blackrock road with the side street
to the east connecting to a great neighborhood of similar
pre-war homes with great character. An existing irregular
stone walkway from the garage to the front door was difficult
to walk on and became inundated with weeds. An existing
Norway maple filled an entire area of the front yard choking
out available sun light for lawn and was becoming a weed
tree factory for the beds. Other existing Sugar maples along
Blackrock road provided plenty of shade and permanence to
the site. Existing beds ran along the entire length of the
two roads providing privacy but leaving a closed in feeling.
The existing fence was nice and worked with the house, but
what did it contain? What was its purpose? The front foundation
planting was mostly overgrown, however some plants needed
to be saved to hide the air conditioner and to keep a feeling
of connection to the established neighborhood.
existing Purple plum commanded too much attention and drew
the eye away from the subtle house color scheme. The Pieris
by the front door was beautiful but had outgrown its location
and needed to be transplanted. Situated less than a few
hundred yards from the Delaware River, the soils were a
sandy silt that drains incredibly well but tends to dry
out in the hot summer.
clients, one being a prominent local realtor, recognized
the need for curb appeal and a sense of entry. "Something
with color and fragrance, but not too much maintenance."
is the often heard concerns of clients and the Slater’s
would be no different. After long discussion and some preliminary
drawings, we decided to remove the existing walkway, Norway
maple, Purple plum, and to open some of the perimeter plantings
for a glimpse of the house. Then, install a new more functional
walk and leave the fence, which now separated the entry
walk from the new lawn and created a sense of entry to the
front. The plantings needed to be re-worked adding fragrance
and color while resisting the "rip it all out and start
any project becomes quite easy if designed well. An interlocking
concrete paver was chosen with a molded surface, which gave
it an aged quality reminiscent of a cobblestone. The blended
gray color worked well with the dark gray house. All the
new beds received a healthy quantity of leaf compost to
help with moisture retention along with a 5-10-10 fertilizer.
The transplants always require some creative pruning and
facing to achieve a natural look in their new locations.
plants chosen for the project reflect the needs of the homeowner
and the skill of the designer. Mixing the textural Hosta
and Liriope, the fragrance of the Daphne and Magnolia, and
the subtle re-introduction of purple with the Coralbells
brought together with something in bloom or color throughout
the season result in a cohesive design. Maintenance becomes
a once a year cutback with minimal mulch requirements because
of the heavy use of ground covers.
the job progressed well and everyone was pleased with the
result until the last day when we washed down the new paver
walkway and discovered small white speckling on the face
of all the pavers! After pressure washing and numerous calls
to suppliers and other installers, we remained stumped.
After calls to the manufacturer led only to accusations
of mishandling on our part, it was decided to completely
remove the pavers, re-install new, and leave the new pavers
un-tamped after installation. The client was pleased, but
we remained puzzled until recently. the manufacturer has
now admitted that this will happen and recommends not tamping
this type of paver. Sweet vindication? We are still awaiting
but never expecting payment from the manufacturer! Overall,
the Slater garden was a simple, elegant project that does
exactly what the client wanted, a complement to their beautiful
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