My Award Winning Garden Design

Last fall, I entered a garden I designed in New Jersey in 2015 APLD International Landscape Design Awards in the Planting Design category. It was awarded the highest honor, a Gold Award. To be honest, I knew the value of the design, but since it is the antithesis of current planting trends, I was really pleased. Current trends in planting design seem to require ornamental grasses and meadow-like qualities. This garden has neither, but that doesn’t make it unsustainable or unfriendly to all  but deer.

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The garden’s underlying structure of boxwood hedging and pyramids gives it definition. My client specifically asked that I not use any ornamental grasses as they felt they were too ‘beachy’ looking.  The 7800 square foot garden was originally built in the 1920s when the 15 acre property had a working greenhouse and two full-time gardeners. The bones of that garden remained: stonework in disrepair, heaved brick walks, and a leaky concrete pond.

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Lee Hill Farm 1 Before

The homeowners wanted to re-imagine the space in the spirit of the original, but with lower maintenance and an eye towards family use and deer resistance. A new stone wall was built to create a level terrace on the west slope with new gravel paths and existing brick walks that were excavated and re-laid linking to existing steps.

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Lee Hill Farm 9

Planting beds were edged with recycled steel and damaged stonework was repaired. Millstones from throughout the property were inserted into the relaid brick paths to indicate transitions. The homeowner repaired the pond with salvaged parts; inexpensive off the shelf, steel arbors were added to support climbing roses; and drip irrigation installed.

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Planting plans from the 1940s were available and indicated that the original garden had a color palette of deep blues and pinks punctuated with seasonal yellow and white accents. They were the inspiration for the new seasonal bloom sequence that starts out predominantly blue, white and pink; changes to white, yellow and pink; and back to blue, white, and pink. The historic property had been documented as General Lafayette’s winter headquarters at some point during the Revolution. Boxwood hedges and repeating pyramids are a nod to formal 18th century French gardens. That they are also deer resistant and provide winter interest was also considered. An organic maintenance plan was put in place–the evidence of this is the seeded areas between the natural bluestone slabs which as long as they are ‘green’ are mowed and left to their own devices.

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The finished garden is lush and sensual with abundant bloom and textural interest.  It is a traditional garden that was never meant to be ‘naturalistic’, but it was, and is meant to be of its time and place and I’m very grateful that it has received an award as acknowledgement that it’s okay not to follow the trends.

Photography by Rich Pomerantz and Susan Cohan.  All rights reserved.

 

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19 Comments
  1. What a beautiful garden, Susan. I haven’t seen any photos of it before. It really looks like quite a substantial accomplishment, and a very satisfying one I imagine. And congratulations–from one of those “current trend” gardeners.

  2. Hanna Packer

    Great post of the fantastic work you have done. Did you reuse the old stone/brick in restoration work?

  3. Really beautiful Susan. I particularly like the gravel facing the wall at seat height nestled on two sides with herbaceous. Keep up the good work and congratulations!

  4. Ed Morrow

    it is wonderful and congratulations on the award.
    It is always a treat to see the hand and the eye of the designer at work.
    Would you consider posting more pictures as the garden moves though the seasons?

    All the best,
    Ed Morrow
    Carmel Valley, CA

  5. Congratulations Susan! I love that you have worked with the old bones. The old stone, the formal lines and the lovely rich plantings would draw me out into this garden and I would want to sit for hours. I imagine the owners are so pleased!!!

  6. Susan — It’s gorgeous. You literally took me back in time as I envisioned what the garden once was. How long after the install were the after photos taken? Did they keep it up or do you go back in and prepare it for the photo shoot?

  7. James- for some reason I’ve kept this one in my pocket. It was and is one of my favorite projects for many reasons. Thanks for the nod from trend ville 🙂

  8. Hanna- we did use the brick, some of the stone was new since we couldn’t harvest enough on site.

  9. Thanks Doug. I love low walls that are safe to walk and sit on. They make such a difference in how a garden space is used.

  10. The photos were taken two years after the garden was installed because the house was being sold! I figured it was then or never.

  11. Ed- the house was put up for sale soon after the pictures were taken. I haven’t asked for access to the property since then.

  12. Thanks Laurin–I know how you love old houses 🙂

  13. I’m so glad I found your story and so many photos of this wonderful garden you’ve done! It is 2:30am and I must get to bed, but seeing this has meant a lot to me! Congratulations on winning the great award — you’ve done a miraculous job and the photography is terrific.

  14. Tom Carmichael

    Congrats on winning APLD Gold, you certainly earned it. Great looking job. Hope your trip to Europe was as fun as it looked.

  15. Jim Chalil

    Amazing work, but I am not surprised at all 🙂
    Looking forward to seeing more amazing work and of course learning more!

    Thanks for all your contributions!!
    Jim

  16. Absolutely stunning, Susan! It’s a beautiful space, and your award is well deserved. Congratulations!

  17. Great stuff, I can see why it’s award winning. Stunning Iris. Ever thought of taking part at RHS Chelsea?? Simon UK

  18. Simon, taking part in Chelsea would be a dream.

  19. This is totally awesome.Although variety of article on this topic,this article contains some of the precious points which were never be read in other articles.

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