Mindful of the sheer size of the house,
whose two-story rear façade stretches more than
100 feet in length, Brady addressed the scale of
the terrace with a two-pronged approach. “The
house itself had so much weight that the terrace
had to be large enough to sit on the site yet still
feel comfortable to the people using it,” she says.
Her solution was to use plantings and low stone
walls to define a large primary terrace for entertaining and a second smaller terrace scaled for
just two people.
To complement the house, everything new
was made to look old. For the large, nearly 60-
foot-long terrace, Brady used new bluestone slabs
purposely chosen in muted tones to give the
appearance of age. The newly built garden walls
are made of antique stone that was found through
the efforts of local stoneworker Kevin Baker.
A small oval pool with an octagonal bluestone
border anchors one end of the terrace, where
it reflects the sky and a magnificent European
beech, one of the property’s grand old trees.
The smaller terrace, about 16 feet square,
is also made of bluestone in weathered tones.
Furnished with two cushioned garden chairs, the
small terrace is the homeowners’ favorite spot for
The gardens interwoven with the terraces
include plantings that not only add colorful
blossoms at a variety of heights, but also soften
the boundary from house to bluestone to lawn.
Hydrangeas, roses, and geraniums intermingle
with vitex, iris, salvia, hibiscus, nepeta, and coreopsis in a profusion that delights the plant-loving
homeowner. Additional work done
on the property — grading the lawn
so the slope nearest the house isn’t
as steep and remaking the front
driveway entry — enhances the
grandeur of the house as well.
“Wonderful old specimen trees and open
lawn don’t make a garden,” says Susan Ruf. “Now
we have gardens and we have an understory.” And
still standing proud are the majestic trees that
initially captured her heart, giving presence to a
landscape with a newfound sense of place.
shrubs and trees
the site plan highlights the new gardens and terraces designed to connect
the house with the existing landscape. The larger terrace is accessed through
the new arched gateway. The smaller terrace is a more private space shielded
by tall plantings.
➝ design decisions
Earth, Water, and Stone
A fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Sheila Brady has a
master’s degree in landscape architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School
of Design. In 1987, she joined Oehme, van Sweden
& Associates, Inc., a Washington, D.C., firm that
today is known for its philosophy of a “new American
garden,” namely, a relaxed meadowlike landscape
made up of plants chosen for year-round beauty and
complementary nonplant elements such as stone walls,
fences, water features, and garden paths.
PHO TO FACING PAGE B Y CHING-FANG CHEN
the site essence Brady was an artist before studying landscape architecture,
so she sees garden design as a spatial and visual art. She likes to find what
she calls the site essence. “Dramatic land forms or views, the architectural
style of the house, and the surrounding native plants all play a role in
shaping and influencing the design
and landscape character of the
innovative use of plants One of
Oehme, ven Sweden’s hallmarks is
its extensive knowledge of plants.
“From my early years working in
painting and color,” says Brady, “I
weave together patterns, color and
textures — but with plants, which I
am passionate about.”
built elements Terraces, walls,
steps, and other so-called
hardscape devices, like the ones above, are important to creating a sense of
scale and defining elements within the overall landscape plan. “I grew up
loving dry-laid stone walls,” says Brady.