Landscaping IDEAS for a Hill in Backyard
Construction on an adjacent lot and a sloping, shaded lawn created drainage issues that kept this sprawling backyard soggy with springtime thaw well into the summer and sent torrents of water into the basement during heavy rains. Several huge, decades-old white pines were planted too close to the house’s foundation, showering the roof, gutters, and patio with needles and threatening to come crashing down each time a gust of wind rocked the giant trees rooted in soil that was often loosened into mud.
Despite these issues, with barely a flower or shrub planted amidst the property’s expansive front and back lawns, the landscape presented a blank slate for the homeowner’s practical imagination and garden tour aspirations. Our design team visited the site frequently over a period of months to do a full site analysis to better understand the land’s hydrology, seasonal light patterns, and soil quality. Together with the client, we toured some of our projects in the area to experience a variety of materials, designs, features, and plantings. The homeowner shared photos, colors, favorite flowers, and ideas of how the environment should function when we were finished. And then we got to work.
In the first of two phases, we removed a failing asphalt driveway in the front of the house, improved the shape of the approach, and installed a warm, herringbone-pattered clay brick driveway with bluestone and granite details. We landscaped the front yard to create a manicured, formal entry with traditional materials and symmetrical shrubbery that beautifully framed the home while fitting comfortably within the particularities of this historic neighborhood.
The second phase focused on what would become an enchanted, park-like retreat. We constructed Vermont stone retaining walls to carve the sloping lawn into spacious, bluestone terraces for entertaining and a flat, grassy area where the homeowner’s grandchildren could play. Flooding and drainage issues were solved through a network of drainage elements, including French drains, a decorative riverbed, and downspouts. Stone staircases lead guests to the lawn, and a steppingstone path meanders through the ever-blooming perennial gardens to a trail through the woods, which ends at a collection of large glacier boulders and tree swing for the kids. The precarious pines were removed in favor of existing evergreens and mature trees around the perimeter of the yard, which impart privacy and four-season interest to this new, awe-inspiring landscape.