The Landscape Designer Group met in the evening of June 16 at a private garden in Bethesda designed by Paul Davis, of H. Paul Davis Landscape Architects. Paul is a long-time LDG member and has worked for the last 17 years to change American University’s 84 acre campus into an extensive arboretum. In all of his gardens, Paul works in collaboration with nature to structure designs and gardens that create a sense of space and beauty. After refreshments, provided by the Hospitality Committee, Paul led us on a tour of the large garden built over many years in three phases.
Paul began by describing the initial project which was to create an outdoor entertaining space in the front of the house. The entrance to the house is south-facing and the client originally asked for a patio at the entrance that would work as a place for the family to eat outdoors and entertain. Starting with an original cherry tree, Paul built a patio at its base and created a sense of seclusion by trans-planting shrubs and perennials from other parts of the property and building a screen, now covered by honeysuckle creating a clearly defined entrance.
Success on this patio entrance led to Phase 1 of the new garden. A forest of tulip poplars and other deciduous trees surrounds the house on three sides and the property falls off away from the house in the rear. Paul began by cutting down 18 nearby trees “to allow the house to breathe.” Using large fieldstones, he created a path down along the side of the house with two landings for small groups and ending in a terrace along the back of the entire house. He noted an unusual combination of roses and ferns with enough light and shadow to work for both plants.
Farther away from the rear of the house Paul installed a river rock swale along much of the rear property line and created a stone path meandering along side it. One encounters along the shady path Viburnum, Heuchera, two kinds of Acorus, Euphorbia, Chrysogonum, Pulmonaria, Ligularia, Fothergilla, Itea, Clethra and winterberry. Much of this is located within a deer fence. All of the trees planted along this path were started at 2.5-3” caliper.
Phase 2 began 5 years ago with the acquisition of the property next door. The house was torn down to make way for a sports field for the owners’ children. Surrounded by shrubs and perennials beds, the large level field invites ball play and cartwheels. The lush and green lawn is maintained in a totally organic fashion including pulling clover by hand.