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Garden Visit: A Revolutionary Landscape in Concord, MA

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Garden Visit: A Revolutionary Landscape in Concord, MA

August 22, 2019

Heading out of town in Concord, Massachusetts, one passes The Old Manse, an imposing clapboard building, which in the 18th century witnessed the start of the Revolutionary War at the battle of North Bridge (and decades years later became home to naturalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau). A little farther down the road is another sort of landscape: a thoroughly modern garden shaped by the historic character and progressive nature of this revolutionary town.

The new landscape designed by Richard Burck of Richard Burck Associates and constructed by Robert Hanss of Robert Hanss Inc. looks as if it evolved slowly over the centuries. It harmoniously connects a newly built house to surrounding wetlands, meadows, and woodlands. Taking a cue from Concord’s rural surroundings, the contemporary garden honors Concord’s conservationist traditions.Let’s take a walk around.

Photography by Justine Hand.

Architect Leland Cott of Bruner/Cott & Associates stayed true to the scale and spirit of the historic New England town by using materials such as shingles and stone. A Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha) and white-flowering dogwood (Cornus florida &#8\2\16;Cherokee Princess&#8\2\17;) are focal points at the home’s entry; other plantings include dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii), oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia ‘Alice’) and mountain laurel.
Above: Architect Leland Cott of Bruner/Cott & Associates stayed true to the scale and spirit of the historic New England town by using materials such as shingles and stone. A Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha) and white-flowering dogwood (Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Princess’) are focal points at the home’s entry; other plantings include dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii), oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia ‘Alice’) and mountain laurel.

Creating the Concord landscape was a two-phase process. Phase one married the newly built residence with its natural surroundings. After the owners purchased an adjacent property, phase two integrated the new terrain into the landscape design and included an expansion of the gardens.

The rot-resistant wood of \15 black locust trees harvested on site was milled locally to create the pergola that runs along the side of the house, facing a pond.
Above: The rot-resistant wood of 15 black locust trees harvested on site was milled locally to create the pergola that runs along the side of the house, facing a pond.

Throughout the property, traditional materials and motifs employed in modern ways create visual unity and to reinforce the sense of place. New fieldstone walls, stone steps, and walkways echo existing hardscaping to help define and connect the outdoor spaces. In constructing the walls, Hanss opted for an intentionally “loose” style of stacked stone to harmonize with Concord’s rural character. Where possible, the stone was found on site or sourced locally.

Newly constructed stone walls, bluestone paths, and a long pergola edged by a cutting garden define the outdoor spaces closest to the house, creating a more formal setting for outdoor lounging and entertaining.
Above: Newly constructed stone walls, bluestone paths, and a long pergola edged by a cutting garden define the outdoor spaces closest to the house, creating a more formal setting for outdoor lounging and entertaining.
The view from the house: sculpture and a rolling lawn.
Above: The view from the house: sculpture and a rolling lawn.

The homeowners also got a pond and an old stone wall when they bought the neighboring property. Burck and Hanss opened up the space by removing invasive plants and selectively thinning and pruning overgrown vegetation. Next they added the lawn (irrigated by a well dug on site) which acts like a carpet to seamlessly connect the disparate features of the landscape. Wherever possible, existing native trees, shrubs, and other plants were transplanted within the site. In one case, a line of 15-to-20-foot evergreens were moved and re-grouped more naturalistically.

Fieldstone walls, inset in the gentle slope, provide a visual transition to other parts of the landscape. In the background, beyond the wall, native plants such as ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) dominate and provide a transition to the wooded area.
Above: Fieldstone walls, inset in the gentle slope, provide a visual transition to other parts of the landscape. In the background, beyond the wall, native plants such as ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) dominate and provide a transition to the wooded area.
Fragrant, native swamp azaleas (Rhododendron viscosum and the pink azalea R. periclymeniodes)  throughout the property connect the landscaped areas with wilder meadows and woodlands.
Above: Fragrant, native swamp azaleas (Rhododendron viscosum and the pink azalea R. periclymeniodes)  throughout the property connect the landscaped areas with wilder meadows and woodlands.
 Bluestone pavers near the house are similar to those found throughout the historic parts of town.
Above: Bluestone pavers near the house are similar to those found throughout the historic parts of town.
The only area of the garden with non-native plants, a  densely planted cutting garden (with purple Allium ‘Globemaster’) provides color and seasonal interest in the areas closest to the house.
Above: The only area of the garden with non-native plants, a  densely planted cutting garden (with purple Allium ‘Globemaster’) provides color and seasonal interest in the areas closest to the house.
From the kitchen windows and adjacent pergola, the view encompasses both the cutting garden—with allium, geranium, heuchera, oriental poppy, delphinium, iris, rose, peony, and foxglove—as well as the pond and old stone wall beyond.
Above: From the kitchen windows and adjacent pergola, the view encompasses both the cutting garden—with allium, geranium, heuchera, oriental poppy, delphinium, iris, rose, peony, and foxglove—as well as the pond and old stone wall beyond.
Around the pond, seen here through the cutting garden, tree branches were selectively pruned to showcase the underlying structure; invasive plants were removed and replaced by native perennials. Because of wetlands regulations, all plants and plantings in this area had to be approved by the local conservation commission. An aerator was added to the pond to enhance aquatic life.
Above: Around the pond, seen here through the cutting garden, tree branches were selectively pruned to showcase the underlying structure; invasive plants were removed and replaced by native perennials. Because of wetlands regulations, all plants and plantings in this area had to be approved by the local conservation commission. An aerator was added to the pond to enhance aquatic life.
Lending historic character to the site, an old stone wall and stairs were repaired.
Above: Lending historic character to the site, an old stone wall and stairs were repaired.
Throughout the property tress were thinned to enhance the view. Here the old steps lead up to a bit of lawn dominated by a \100-year-old ash tree.
Above: Throughout the property tress were thinned to enhance the view. Here the old steps lead up to a bit of lawn dominated by a 100-year-old ash tree.
In the meadow, a mown path provides a link and transition to the surrounding woodlands beyond.
Above: In the meadow, a mown path provides a link and transition to the surrounding woodlands beyond.

Below the house and drive, a small vale is home to a meadow previously choked by overgrown plantings. Here Hanss cleared the site of invasive species and planted a field of native grasses and wildflowers, which now hosts birds and pollinating insects.

The sea of grass in the field is punctuated by sunny daisies.
Above: The sea of grass in the field is punctuated by sunny daisies.
The field not only provides textural interest and movement to the landscape, it also is a haven for pollinators and birds.
Above: The field not only provides textural interest and movement to the landscape, it also is a haven for pollinators and birds.
Granite, salvaged from the site, was repurposed to create a set of stairs leading from the back meadow up the the house and more landscaped areas. Plantings include mountain laurel (Kalmia), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), and geranium.
Above: Granite, salvaged from the site, was repurposed to create a set of stairs leading from the back meadow up the the house and more landscaped areas. Plantings include mountain laurel (Kalmia), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), and geranium.
Providing a bit of color, Aquilegia vulgaris &#8\2\16;Black Barlow&#8\2\17; and mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia “Carousel” flank the granite steps.
Above: Providing a bit of color, Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Black Barlow’ and mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia “Carousel” flank the granite steps.
A simple shed, elevated by clapboards and wood-shingled roof, stores garden equipment.
Above: A simple shed, elevated by clapboards and wood-shingled roof, stores garden equipment.

A series of functional outbuildings also help enhance the historic character of the property, while still maintaining a clean, Shaker-like look. All feature traditional materials such as painted clapboards and wooden shingles.

The driveway area is simply planted with birch, ferns, and native azeleas, including a white birch (Betula populifolia) and yellowwood tree (Cladrastis kentukea) that flank the shed. A neighboring horse farm  provides a particularly treasured borrowed view.
Above: The driveway area is simply planted with birch, ferns, and native azeleas, including a white birch (Betula populifolia) and yellowwood tree (Cladrastis kentukea) that flank the shed. A neighboring horse farm  provides a particularly treasured borrowed view.
Above: Hidden at the back of the garden shed, a nook for storing firewood sits opposite a bank of native ferns and azaleas.
Using traditional materials and architectural details, the outbuildings on the property also reflect the historic character of the area.
Above: Using traditional materials and architectural details, the outbuildings on the property also reflect the historic character of the area.
As seen from the lawn, the house, gardens, and outbuildings are seamlessly integrated into the landscape.
Above: As seen from the lawn, the house, gardens, and outbuildings are seamlessly integrated into the landscape.

See more tips for designing a landscape from scratch in our Garden Design 101 guides, including Decks & Patios 101 and Pavers 101. More historic New England garden tours:

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