Fortunately, he and Pamela did not listen. Today, the Parisis’
yard is a lush all-season shade garden, not a dry wasteland. As winter
descends, monkshood, cyclamens, and orchids bloom even as maples
shed their last glowing leaves, while the evergreen leaves of hellebores,
rhododendrons, and mountain laurels gleam in the sideways-slant-ing light.
Now retired, both Pamela and Phil worked as product designers;
she as director of global packaging design at Gillette, and he at a number of independent design firms. From the time they moved into their
home, they began to plant trees at the property boundaries.
“We did not grow up as gardeners,” says Phil. “Before this,
my only exposure to gardens was at the New England Flower Show.
Although, when I was a child in Gloucester [Massachusetts], I used
to try to re-create Dogtown Common [an abandoned 18th- and 19th-
century settlement in the wild center of Cape Ann] in my yard.”
As they experimented, they learned.
“I wanted to grow tall grasses,” Pamela says, “but they died.”
“We knew that we didn’t want to spend our time mowing lawns,”
Phil adds. “We thought that we’d grow conifers, but they need sun.
Then we saw that the hemlocks survived. As we cleared, we found a
beautiful piece of ledge outcropping hidden under the underbrush and
the pine needles.”
“I have always been attracted to pines and rocks,” says Pamela,
so the discovery was a plus.
The couple brought that spirit of adventure and experimentation
to their suburban lot, which measures 120 feet along the street, 160 feet
along the back boundary, and 260 feet deep.
Due to the careful placement of trees and shrubs, which draw the
eye to many skillfully created points of interest, “no one realizes where
our property ends,” says Pamela. “Our yard looks enormous.”
A path meanders through the property, leading to benches and to
garden artwork. Along the way, trees, shrubs, and perennials such as
threadleaf Japanese maple, lacecap hydrangea, azalea, trillium, pink
when they began clearing the land, Phil and Pamela Parisi discovered a
picturesque outcropping of granite ledge (above, left), that has become a
central feature in the garden layout. A white hydrangea blooms midsummer as
it climbs the 30-foot trunk of an eastern white pine (above, top right). It
stands sentry above the driveway that landscape designer Christie Dustman
conceived using geometrically laid slabs of granite paving (above, top and
bottom right) as a graceful transition between garden and house.