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Sculpting Nature

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

In the northern reaches of Howard County, Maryland, despite new development, you still encounter narrow and winding country lanes, pastoral farmsteads and gently rolling verdant hills alive with native meadows, wetlands and natural ponds. It was just the kind of setting that attracted Bob Haney back in 2001, when he was looking for a new family home. He found what he wanted in Woodbine, Maryland, on the site of a former farm: five acres that included a spring-fed pond, a new 5,600-square-foot Cape Cod-style home and not much else. “There was no landscaping, no driveway, not a stitch of anything here,” says Haney. For the owner and president of Town Creek Landscaping, Pools and Construction, the site was the blank slate he’d often dreamed of, a place he could craft into a distinctive residence with plenty of room for large gatherings outside around a pool and patio and lots of play space for his three children and all of their friends.

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Potomac Playground

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

In the afternoon sun, the rustic stone pavilions glow like two pots of honey flecked with cinnamon. Set beside a swimming pool and against a backdrop of evergreens, the warm hues of rough rock suggest a fantasy from Tuscany (her dream), or a mountain retreat in the American West (his ideal). The genius of this Potomac landscape is that the timeless materials and iconic forms free the imagination to choose whichever dreamscape suits the mood. And dreamscape it is, now that two properties have been joined into one seamless family playground with a boulder-strewn spa and waterfall thundering toward a Zen-like fishpond in the lower quadrant of the annexed lot. The owners—an attorney, his wife and their two sons—waited six years to acquire the property next door, a corner site that has more than doubled their half acre. The project took three years and required a skilled design team to manipulate the land and replace the neighbors’ vintage rambler, tennis court and kidney-shaped swimming pool with features for an active family and their friends. Anne Decker of Rill & Decker Architects called on landscape architect Lila Fendrick to tame the site, now supported by a large stone retaining wall.

Woodland Escapes

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

An elaborate, natural-looking pool is the main landscape feature of this wooded, nearly six-acre property in Chantilly, Virginia. Landscape architect Chad Talton of Surrounds Landscape Architecture + Construction, Inc., was tasked with providing a spacious entertaining area and a pool big enough to swim laps. The property was largely flat, but it contained a woodland area with rock outcroppings, which Talton used to sculpt the landscape into a multi-level outdoor living space. Boulders ranging from two to ten tons were craned into place, and a berm on one side of the pool creates a waterfall.
A sizeable terrace provides ample space for entertaining and connects to another terrace with a natural stone fireplace. There was not quite enough space for a standard-length lap pool (75 feet), so a swimming jet was installed on one side of the pool along with a spa area. The main challenge, says Talton, was to “keep it natural, to match the environment of a woodland, rural setting.”

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Portfolio- On the Water’s Edge

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Over two decades in their mist-gray weekend house in St. Michaels, Maryland, two generations of a Washington family have embraced the outdoors. Their Eastern Shore idyll can be measured in memories of nature—the day the deer swam by on Broad Creek; the year a hurricane whipped one long island into three just past the boat dock; the seasons when swans flocked by the dozens to this waterside paradise— all viewed from a simple patio. But for all the pleasures of their retreat, the owners finally were compelled to acknowledge two small discomforts that come with the privilege of living just 100 feet from the water’s edge: unrelenting sun and insects. A little more than a year ago, they decided to add a screened porch to gain more shade and keep unwelcome creatures at bay.

Summer Sanctuary

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Informal plantings can be the best solution for a very formal landscape: They soften the straight lines of pool, patio, deck and retaining walls, and lend a casual air to a backyard geared for the enjoyment of family and friends. For designer Joseph Hafner of Fine Earth Landscape, Inc., combining formal and casual was the key to landscaping a sweeping Potomac property, where a pool and patio created the elegant yet welcoming look he wanted. The main design scheme, says Hafner, was “to create a feeling of under-story and sanctuary down by the pool,” while maintaining views of the landscape from the deck off the rear of the residence. The major roadblock to the design was an existing septic system, which dictated that the pool be built atop special support piers screwed into bedrock 25 feet below grade. Hafner connected the house to the lower landscape with stone retaining walls, planting beds and wide steps to the pool and patio area, which is a generous 2,400-plus square feet.

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A Master Plan

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

With summer drawing to a close, thoughts of the al fresco life will soon be replaced by falling leaves and temperatures. But while the summer mindset may be gone, your outdoor living space isn’t: Fall is a great time to think about redesigning the landscape. From picturesque pools to ultra-cool kitchens, the possibilities are endless—and with proper planning, you can realize them all by the time summer rolls around. In case inspiration provides incentive, we profile four recently completed backyard transformations below, along with the landscape plans for seven other projects. We also include tips from landscape designers on how to proceed—food for thought as autumn leaves begin to fall.

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Streamlined Style

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

A double vanishing-edge pool, open decks, a screened porch and masses of colorful plantings are the main components of this contemporary yet classic garden in McLean, Virginia. When landscape architect Anthony Cusat of McHale Landscape Design Inc. first encountered his clients’ long, linear property, it already had a free-form pool with a wrought-iron fence around it that divided the backyard in half. Based on consultations with the owners, his goal was to connect the al fresco spaces and, as he describes it, create an environment “rich in architectural detail, contemporary in spirit and grounded in traditional design.” The clients also wanted him to incorporate the symmetry and balanced proportions of their updated Georgian-style residence. Cusat designed a new state-of-the-art, three-level pool with two vanishing edges. Water spills from an urn into the upper level, cascades down into the main pool, then spills over another edge into a lower basin. At one end, a glass mosaic tanning shelf sits below water level, creating an area roomy enough for a chaise and a shade umbrella. From upper-level decks and a screened porch, stairs descend to spacious patios surrounding the pool and to walkways that wind through colorful plantings to a serene lawn area. The pool deck and walkways are constructed from Turkish travertine with Pennsylvania flagstone edges; stepping stones through beds of ground-hugging Mazus reptans unify terraces at different levels.  Sweetbay magnolias in spring give way to summer blooms of hydrangea, crape myrtle, catmint, cleome and roses.

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