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Westbrook Residence

esign Objectives
A fresh approach to a colonial house is what one might call this garden design. The Westbrook residence has the right mixture of colonial formality blended with the soft textures and riotous color almost demanded by the discriminating gardener of today. Situated on a high windswept lot facing due west, the home presented a good test of plant selection for designer Dave Reitz of Dietrick Landscapes. In many areas of the property, layers of red shale lay just a few inches below existing grade. Lastly, deer are becoming more and more of a problem in this area causing plant selections to be limited to deer resistant species.

Pulling from the colonial architecture, Dave chose a formal walkway design accentuating the straight driveway approach to the home. The brick is a molded, flashed, clay brick by Glen Gerry. Sweeping across the end of the walk where it meets the driveway, the planting bed separates the large front lawn from the more intimate space near the front door. All plantings in this bed are intentionally low to preserve the view of the house. Positioned to the right side, Sugar maples and White pines frame the house and provide balance to the steep banks on the left of the house. The lamppost is well sited. Clipped boxwood are the only formally arranged plants in the front planting and are spaced wide and away from the brick foundation to allow views to the brick detail as well as the louvered vents. A formal Hornbeam adds some depth to the front planting and frames the main part of the house. A Jelena witchazel glows for about a month during the winter against the cream siding on the front of the garage.

Around to the rear of the home, the client wished to have a perennial border to be viewed from the house with places for birds and garden art. Privacy was needed at the lower patio from the neighbors to the side. A sand mound needed softening. Long views need to be preserved while minimizing views to neighboring lower property. A circular lawn panel was introduced to create an outdoor room and to move the perennial border out far enough from the house to be seen from the elevated first floor. Irregular bluestone steppingstones create a whimsical occasional path from the driveway to the rear deck steps. Twin Trident maples create an entry to the garden space. Boxwood lend structure to the oval lawn panel and unify the jumble of colorful shrubs, perennials, and grasses, that make up the border. Below the brick retaining wall, an elegant shady retreat is treated very simply with low ground cover, a Sweetbay magnolia for screening from the neighbors, and more color along the base of the wall. Hawthorns were used to soften the sand mound without drawing attention.

As expected, deer have become a problem. The Blue hollies are being slightly browsed in winter and eventually will need replacement if conditions deteriorate further. Liriope does well during the growing season and the deer just do a nice job of cutting back during the winter.

Installation was only made difficult by the shale. Removing shale wherever planting beds are is the only solution. We removed loads!! Good bed preparation with lots of compost and topsoil assured survival in the drought of 1999.

We may be criticized for not designing a garden with authentic colonial era plants. If we know Thomas Jefferson and William Bartram spent their gardening time always trying new plants, shouldn’t we do the same?

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