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The “Anti-Trophy” Landscape: A Charming Country Garden in Columbia County, NY

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The “Anti-Trophy” Landscape: A Charming Country Garden in Columbia County, NY

September 11, 2017

“The anti-trophy house” is what husband-and-wife architects Maria Berman and Brad Horn of Berman Horn Studio were aiming for when they overhauled the landscape surrounding their clients’ 19th century farmhouse in Columbia County, New York.

Over a period of three years, a quirky, charming garden took shape. Low stone retaining walls hold a hillside at bay without hiding the views beyond. Taking a cue from the remodel of the house (see the interiors today on Remodelista), “we embraced the awkward, the weird, even the cute,” says Berman.

“We were aiming for a modern interpretation of a country garden, kind of a mix of Gertrude Jekyll and Piet Oudolf (at least in our dreams), with soft sprawling romantic plantings that still retain some structural blocking of colors and shapes,” says Berman.

Photography by Rush Jagoe, courtesy of Berman Horn Studio.

A split rail fence adds an air of modern informality to the th-century farmhouse&#8
Above: A split rail fence adds an air of modern informality to the 19th-century farmhouse’s facade, which is painted Classic Gray by Benjamin Moore.
The architects replaced aging asphalt roof shingles with eastern white pine wood shingles.

 The front door paint color is Van Gogh Yellow by Fine Paints of Europe. &#8
Above: The front door paint color is Van Gogh Yellow by Fine Paints of Europe. “This color has really settled down over a couple of years,” says Berman.  I miss its vibrancy, but it was such a statement when we first put it up.  It probably took about a year for the clients to finally embrace it.”

Plantings around the foundation of the 2,500-square-foot farmhouse include Hydrangea paniculata, which are “awesome blowsy shrubs” when interplanted with perennials such as the dusty purplish Sedum in the front of the garden bed.

 &#8
Above:  “The back garden was originally set into the slightly higher surrounding slope and retained with a single, not-very-nice stone wall,” says Berman. “We broke the wall up into several terraced planting beds and selected and planted perennials to get a cascade of color.”

On the master plant list: a variety of purple flowering plants, including the hazy swath of Russian sage at the edge of the stone retaining wall.

Hydrangeas (L) and yellow Rudbeckia (R) that echoes the vibrancy of the yellow front door edge a path of stone pavers.
Above: Hydrangeas (L) and yellow Rudbeckia (R) that echoes the vibrancy of the yellow front door edge a path of stone pavers.

“We were envisioning a slightly more modern take on a cottage garden, with the clean lines of the retaining steps holding in the generous sprawling and unruly plantings,” says Berman.

  &#8
Above:  “The Russian sage and grasses at the top of the retaining stairs create an edge of sorts to the lawn beyond, and make the paved terrace feel much more enclosed, but without the claustrophobic effect of higher retaining walls,” says Berman. “All the colors are quite soft, with occasional pops of acid green, or a hot pink or orange.  Lots of dusty blues, lavenders, and yellows.”
One-of-a-kind vintage dining tables sit end to end on the patio.
Above: One-of-a-kind vintage dining tables sit end to end on the patio.
Easy-to-care-for perennials bloom from spring through autumn. Above: Easy-to-care-for perennials bloom from spring through autumn.

The homeowners, who live in Manhattan, use the upstate farmhouse as a “half-time” retreat. “We’ve tried to create plantings that have interest from early spring onward, but realistically we’ve given predominance to mid-late summer, which is when the house is most used,” says Berman.

A row of perennial Little Blue Stem Grass serves as a backdrop to the purple Russian sage.
Above: A row of perennial Little Blue Stem Grass serves as a backdrop to the purple Russian sage.
Hydrangea &#8
Above: Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ will reach a height of 5 feet or more when the clumps mature.
A bird&#8
Above: A bird’s nest on a windowsill.

N.B.: See more of our favorite upstate New York landscape projects:

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