As part of a complete house renovation project, the owners of this Belmont home desired to tame the tangle of their overgrown landscape in a way that respected the property's history and wetland ecology while functioning more efficiently.
Originally built in 1809, the rambling home had been added onto over several generations. Like many homes of its era, the original part of the house was sited close to the road, leaving a narrow front yard. Over the years the road became increasingly busy, and the owners asked that the new landscape buffer the noisy traffic while also highlighting the front door. To address the noise, a Pennsylvania fieldstone wall was built along the edge of the public sidewalk and backed with a thick hedge of shade-tolerant yews. The front yard and driveway were re-graded to drain storm runoff, and two new brick sidewalks and a brick driveway were added to replace the muddy dirt paths and gravel pavement.
While most of the new planting on the 1.7-acre property responds to the site's wooded hillside setting by incorporating drifts of shrubs and perennials, the front landscape intentionally departs from this approach with asymmetrical four-square design. Traditional boxwood hedges line the two intersecting brick and granite walks. The resulting four quadrants are bedded out with spring tulips followed by bright red begonias that bloom until the first hard frost. The bold color and rectilinear layout combine together to accentuate the home's entry, thereby leading visitors to the front door.
To distinguish the public face of the front yard from the private realm of the backyard, the front brick pavers give way to bluestone walks and patios in the back yard. Decorative foundation plantings are minimized, as they would have been in many of the utilitarian landscapes of the past. The layout of the two new patios is kept simple and unadorned.
Colonial landscapes often incorporated vegetable and herb gardens close to the kitchen. Remnants of a terraced garden existed on the top of the slope behind the house, but the timbers that held the terrace tiers had long since rotted away. A new garden terrace was built from fieldstone that matched the rubble stone of the other walls in the back yard. While part of the new terrace was paved with bluestone to accommodate a dining table and grill, the remainder became a garden in which the family could raise herbs and vegetables. Two new sets of steps were incorporated into the terrace to facilitate access to the back and side yards.