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August 2008


FEATURES

Innovation in Design
Landscape Design - Winner

CONNECTING TO A CLEAN-LINED AND ANGULAR ARCHITECTURE, CREATING A MYRIAD OF GARDENS WITH A HISTORIC BENT AND WORKING WITH A FLUID NATURE DEFINE DESIGN FOR CONNECTICUT'S LANDSCAPE ARTISTS

by Tovah Martin
Photographs by Neil Landino, Jr.

James Doyle & Kathryn Herman

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All landscape designers think spatially, that's part of the craft. What's different about James Doyle Design Associates is that they use botanical building blocks in their configurations as well as more concrete materials. Voids are just as valid as volume in his spaces. A sterling example is the contemporary house that won accolades for the firm.

The fact that this award is a double whammy shouldn't come as a surprise, considering the closeness of the collaboration between the Doyle team and Joeb + Partners on this Greenwich project. And truly, Doyle Associates took the ball and ran with the bold footprint established by the architecture. The "spatial thread" is how Doyle refers to the theme that transfers from the home to the landscape. The team took that idea and wove it horticulturally around the home in a dialogue that settles the structure firmly into its space but also turns up the concept a notch or two.

And it should come as no surprise to learn that Doyle received part of his horticultural training in a Russell Page garden in Ireland. That sharp-lined aesthetic is written all over the work the Doyle team now executes throughout the world. Like Page, Doyle sculpts the landscape. By his own admission, he strives to "bridge the gap between garden design and landscape design." Like other landscape designers, Doyle's work is about the continuity of gravel running throughout planting areas. But it's just as much about how carex, lamb's ears or fescue can be coaxed into geometric form.

Doyle describes his company's approach as "traditional design with a modern aesthetic." But the firm took tradition many steps further with the unique slatted fencing that they installed, for example, and the pears that join limbs to form what Doyle calls an "aerial hedge," softened by grasses below. It's all about pairing. Even the entry garden is a rite of passage, with its melodious water troughs delivering serenity as a welcoming note. In addition to drawing the strong inner architecture outward, the design's goal is to create a sense of sanctuary. More than anything, the prevailing peace within and without testifies to the success of the landscape.

Paul Winsor

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Sometimes treading softly is the way to go. Given a house designed by a circa-1930s Fairfield architectural icon, and a garden whipped up by the architect's landscaper wife, rather than obliterating history, Paul Winsor went with a renovation rather than a revamp.

It's a testament to his wisdom that he reconfigured an updated version of the simple, smart Colonial garden that was the property's pride. In keeping with his signature style, Winsor went with monochromatic white rather than opening up the rainbow, preferring depth, dimension and year-around intrigue to a big color splash that would appear every summer. He strategically positioned gates to direct the flow of foot traffic through the garden, which he made the primary point of entry. The oft-visited Colonial-revival interlude serves as the crowning attraction in a series of structures starting with the clipped boxwood circle and fountain accenting the doorway, and moving through the skimmias, mini-mountain laurels, andromedas and other shrubs. If the result looks like it belongs, that's just what Paul Winsor had in mind.

Donna Christensen

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Salt spray is no contest for Donna Christensen. Ditto for beating sun, blistering winds and high seas. Nonplussed by town zoning regulations? No problem. Bordering on a tidal wetland? Got a concrete pool straight out of the '70s? Got nothing standing between you and the neighbors but a rickety arbor on its last gasp? Piece of cake for Christensen Landscape Services.

All those issues and more stood between a Guilford property and sheer bliss, and Christensen Landscape Services tackled the hurdles with aplomb. The pool area went from dated to dramatic despite the fact that zoning regulations demanded the existing grade be maintained. With the help of locally-acquired stone paving, plus plenty of planting pockets and a liberal seasoning of native plants sensitively selected for their compatibility with the shoreline, a fitting frame was achieved. Thanks to liberally applied lavender, Sedum sexangular and blue fescue, there's a sweeping interface between ocean and property. And the firm won an enthusiastic high-five from their client's children for the stone bench cosseted beneath the sleek, illuminated waterfall they created. As an added bonus, Christensen tackled the privacy issue with a lattice screen that turned an under-utilized area into an oft-frequented niche. The natives furnish fragrance, flowers, bird-appeal and muted color. The landscape is subtle and lush at the same time. All this, and low maintenance as well, spells the seminal weekend retreat.

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