there a more poetic landscape than a stand of
birches? An example of such poetry is on a Vermont hilltop, where
gleaming white tree trunks and lacy foliage surround a chalet that could
have housed Heidi and her grandfather. Birches line the driveway leading up to the stucco-and-half-timbered house, forming the foreground
to a sunset view of distant western mountains. To complete the rural
idyll, Belted Galloway cattle graze their way into the picture.
“This is a very beautiful site in the Woodstock area,” says land-
scape designer Julie Moir Messervy of Julie Moir Messervy Design
Studio in Saxtons River, Vermont. “Before we began, we saw the
themes for a design: pasture, cows, birches, and the view.”
The owners, a married couple whose primary residence is on New
York’s Long Island, bought the 3,500-square-foot chalet five years ago.
“The people who built this house had a fondness for Switzerland,” says one of the homeowners, “so they built a chalet and imported
wrought-iron hardware for the windows, as well as other architectural
elements, from there.” She adds: “They used it as a second home for
30 years, but they never put in any plantings. It was barren in a funny
way; the only beautiful landscape element was the birch trees. The
outside of the house needed some softening. We needed someone who
could make it pretty.”
Messervy drew up a plan that makes the most of the birches and
the view of the Green Mountains while creating places to sit, lounge,
eat, and cook. Working with project manager Anna Johansen and Erica
Bowman, who oversaw all the plantings, she reconfigured the approach
to the house, placed stone planting beds at the front facade, built a side
wall with a thick wooden gate, and at the windows placed pots of tuber-
ous begonias that spill prettily through the iron bars.
Messervy tapped Vermont’s workforce to execute her plan: general contractor Lance Ballard Builders of South Woodstock, Clement
Lawn and Irrigation of Perkinsville, and JT Dow Masonry of Windsor.
The designer’s primary focus was the rear of the house, where
the long view toward the mountains is interrupted only by those grazing cattle and clumps of birches. Here, Messervy was inspired by the