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Garden Visit: Conjuring Old World Grandeur for a Modern Family in New England

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Garden Visit: Conjuring Old World Grandeur for a Modern Family in New England

Justine Hand October 19, 2018

In a historic neighborhood just southwest of Boston, the grounds of a Mediterranean-style estate had much to recommend them. A sweeping lawn, mature specimen trees, a quiet reflecting pool, and a quaint pond all enhanced the stately atmosphere of the early 20th-century home. But the landscape had none of the transitional areas prized by modern families: no zones for outdoor living, entertaining or recreation.

Working closely with architect Claudia Noury-Ello, owner and interior designer Abby Yozell and her husband, John, engaged landscape architect Richard Burck Associates, Inc. and the landscape construction team of Robert Hanss, Inc., to help them devise a plan to update the historic estate. Their vision was two-fold: enhance the feel of old-world grandeur and relaxed elegance that the grounds already possessed, while also creating a timeless landscape fit for modern living.

Bob Hanss, whose team today is responsible for maintaining the landscape, noted: “This was a grand, and very old garden…with great older plantings and so much unique character. Respecting the history that was there was important. It was a chance to revive an older, historic estate for needs of the 21st century.”

Photography by Justine Hand.

Matching the scale and architecture of the house, the pool feels as if it has always been there.
Above: Matching the scale and architecture of the house, the pool feels as if it has always been there.

One of the first elements that the design team added was a grand pool which runs the length of the elegant lawn. Intentionally minimal, it provides a focal point, leading the eye toward the house from one end, or toward the large pines when viewed from the opposite end.

Viewed from the house, the pool is framed by tall pines that serve as a transitional element from the more formal lawn shown here to the woodland and pond below.
Above: Viewed from the house, the pool is framed by tall pines that serve as a transitional element from the more formal lawn shown here to the woodland and pond below.
Its edges flush with the ground, the pool blends seamlessly into the lawn.
Above: Its edges flush with the ground, the pool blends seamlessly into the lawn.

Hanss noted that, though it had much potential, the landscape of the estate was “wildly overgrown,” requiring the removal of invasive plants and the rejuvenation of many old specimen trees. New plantings were restrained and restricted in palette, allowing the architecture of the landscape to take center stage.

The two terraces created a much-needed transitional space between the indoors and out.
Above: The two terraces created a much-needed transitional space between the indoors and out.

To provide more outdoor living space and create a softer transition between the house and garden, the team developed a series of pea stone terraces along the back of the house. The lower patio accommodates a generous outdoor dining area. The upper terrace features two seating areas on either side of the central entrance. Each is framed by low walls constructed of older stone that add texture and enhance the old-world feel.

An interior designer, owner Abby Yozell took the lead on the furnishings and plantings around the terraces, choosing relaxed pieces that reflect the casual elegance of the garden.
Above: An interior designer, owner Abby Yozell took the lead on the furnishings and plantings around the terraces, choosing relaxed pieces that reflect the casual elegance of the garden.
Plantings and garden accents such as agapanthus and urns maintain the Mediterranean feel.
Above: Plantings and garden accents such as agapanthus and urns maintain the Mediterranean feel.
The house, terraces, and pools are laid out in complementary planes, which are then softened by lush and wild plantings.
Above: The house, terraces, and pools are laid out in complementary planes, which are then softened by lush and wild plantings.

Pockets along the edges of the stone terrace provide spaces for plantings, which are deliberately informal and loose. Vines are encouraged to spread, yews are minimally clipped, and plants are left to self-seed, to soften the hardscaping. Adding to the overall romance of the terrace, a trellis of rather fecund wisteria and grape vines also provides ample shade.

Old stones interplanted with mosses and creeping ground covers make the newly constructed wall seem age-old.
Above: Old stones interplanted with mosses and creeping ground covers make the newly constructed wall seem age-old.
Strategically placed throughout the terraces, container gardens with exotic plantings such as succulents and cycads enhance the Mediterranean flavor.
Above: Strategically placed throughout the terraces, container gardens with exotic plantings such as succulents and cycads enhance the Mediterranean flavor.
Framing a hand-hewn stone path, loosely shorn yews, as well as untamed vines and self-sewn plantings, conjure an atmosphere of old-world charm.
Above: Framing a hand-hewn stone path, loosely shorn yews, as well as untamed vines and self-sewn plantings, conjure an atmosphere of old-world charm.
Along the steps, artemisia and lavender echo the Mediterranean architecture.
Above: Along the steps, artemisia and lavender echo the Mediterranean architecture.
At one end of the pool, the original reflecting pool and fountain was restored and enhanced with an old limestone trough.
Above: At one end of the pool, the original reflecting pool and fountain was restored and enhanced with an old limestone trough.
Below the lawn and pool a winding path leads to a man-made pond that was created in the s. Here Bob&#8
Above: Below the lawn and pool a winding path leads to a man-made pond that was created in the 1920s. Here Bob’s crew restored the wetland landscape by clearing invasive species and planting natives such as willow, high-brush blueberry, and swamp azalea.
A paired of lichen-covered deck chairs provides a quiet spot to rest by the pond.
Above: A paired of lichen-covered deck chairs provides a quiet spot to rest by the pond.
Flanked by ferns and mature rhododendrons, the front entrance of the house maintains a stately appearance.
Above: Flanked by ferns and mature rhododendrons, the front entrance of the house maintains a stately appearance.

Inspired to add a little old-world romance into your garden? Take a tour of some of our favorites:

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