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Before & After: A Welcoming Walkway for a Front Garden in North Salem, NY

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Before & After: A Welcoming Walkway for a Front Garden in North Salem, NY

October 9, 2019

When Judy and Jeff Wert asked designer Lindsey Taylor to come and look at their garden in Westchester County about 50 miles north of New York City, they were planning to focus on a redesign for the landscape that surrounds the backyard swimming pool.

“But when I pulled up to the site and saw the house, there was a pergola sitting in the middle of the front garden, for no reason, boxwoods that had seen better days, and a lonely stairway that seemed to go to nowhere, made of pressure-treated wood with slabs of bluestone on top,” says Taylor. “The front garden was really in need of a makeover and I was thinking, oh no, what if they might like it the way it is? And if so, how could we work together?”

Luckily the Werts, co-owners of executive search firm Wert & Co.,  agreed with Taylor. “They had owned the house for a while, and it’s been a long time coming that they’ve wanted to do more with the front garden. Moreover they had become garden enthusiasts and were eager for a plant-forward, more contemporary approach that made sense with the architecture of the house,” says Taylor, who came up with a budget-friendly plan to create an airy, welcoming front garden:

Photography by Meredith Heuer except where noted.

Before

Photograph by Lindsey Taylor.
Above: Photograph by Lindsey Taylor.

“The first thing I did was remove, edit, and relocate,” says Taylor. “The salvageable boxwood I moved to the back garden. Barberry blocking the attractive original stone chimney were ditched. The pergola was plastic, a cheap solution which didn’t provide you any mystery or a nice progression to entry, and had no aesthetic relationship to the house, was eliminated. And we removed the large, ‘dated’ river stones along the steps, reseeding with grass while a new design was developed. Editing made everything look so much better immediately.”

An earlier remodel had added an addition (at Right) with bedrooms and garage below. “We took off the railing on the lower part of addition, which was making the house look institutional,” says Taylor. “My whole goal was to soften the addition and draw the focus on the charming old part of the house.”

An existing euonymous vine on the front facade “provided an attractive green background, and was well-maintained, so we kept it,” says Taylor.

After

The new design includes a bluestone stairway that seems to effortlessly navigate a steep change in elevation from the driveway to the front entryway.
Above: The new design includes a bluestone stairway that seems to effortlessly navigate a steep change in elevation from the driveway to the front entryway.

To balance the large mature existing Japanese maple tree (above at Left), Taylor planted a native dogwood tree on the right side of the walkway. Cornus Florida ‘Cherokee Princess’ has white flowers in early spring and is also positioned to mask and soften the scale of a modern addition added to the house during a previous remodel.

Fountain grasses Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’ and Pennisetum alopecuroides flank the new walkway. Miscanthus sinensus &#8
Above: Fountain grasses Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’ and Pennisetum alopecuroides flank the new walkway. Miscanthus sinensus ‘Morning Light’ adds height and helps screen the driveway and parked cars. In the foreground, seed pods of later-blooming Allium millenium are visible.

“The next step was to redesign the direction of the stairs,” says Taylor, who collaborated with Thomas Wright of Newburgh, NY-based Atlas Industries to work on the elevation change from the driveway. They added two dry-laid stone walls to soften the grade change and created two generous landings on the stairway.

Taylor and Wright re-used as much existing bluestone as possible to &#8
Above: Taylor and Wright re-used as much existing bluestone as possible to “make the transition from driveway to house an experience rather than just a direct, uninspiring route,” says Taylor. “We widened the steps, we slowed it down, so that the experience is now much more gracious and elegant.”
&#8
Above: “The client loves purple,” says Taylor, who included purple-blooming plants, such as asters, salvia, alliums, and catmint in a four-season plant palette. “The idea is for you to be brushing by plants as you head into the house.”
Aster oblongifolius &#8
Above: Aster oblongifolius ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ forms low, dense clumps and blooms in autumn.
At the top of the walkway next to the house bluestone pavers are set in gravel, retained by a discreet metal edging, to create a transition from stairway to entryway.
Above: At the top of the walkway next to the house bluestone pavers are set in gravel, retained by a discreet metal edging, to create a transition from stairway to entryway.

The Plant Palette

Clockwise from top right, Taylor&#8
Above: Clockwise from top right, Taylor’s plant palette includes purple Aster oblongifolius ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’, Helleborus niger, Nepeta fassenii ‘Walker’s Low,’ Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, Japanese maple, Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’, Pennisetum Orientale ‘Karley Rose’, Pennisetum alopecuroides, Cornus Florida ‘Cherokee Princess’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, and Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay scented fern).

For more Before & After transformations, see:

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