“It was a balancing act that had three major components,” Gordon
says. “They were to execute the homeowners’ program, to do so while
aware of the historic nature of the property, which weighed privacy
with the views from the street, and to create a sustainable ecosystem.”
The last goal was more than a vague desire to be green: In the many
decades since a low-lying wetland had been excavated to form the
pond, it had silted up and was eutrophying. Overgrown with algae, it
was unable to retain oxygen and could no longer support a healthy eco-
system. “Evergreen trees shaded the pond and an old shade garden,”
says Gordon. “We decided to remove some of them, take out the old
garden, and make the pond bigger. We worked with the local conserva-
tion commission to dredge the pond. Then we created a series of shelves
for shallow and deep aquatic plants that improve the water quality.”
Aquatic plants include Canada rush, fox sedge, sweet flag, blue
flag iris, arum, and pickerelweed. A swale directs water away from
the lawn as it flows downhill toward the pond. Bordering the lawn is
a meadow planted with goldenrod and verbena. In the marshy areas
surrounding the pond, wet meadow plants, including fescue, cardinal
flower, joe-pye weed, hay-scented fern, and ostrich fern, were installed.
Three granite bridges span rivulets and add architectural interest.
Gordon and Taylor terraced the slope to accommodate a swimming pool and, beside the house, an outdoor kitchen and dining room.
Graceful oval granite retaining walls act as traditional ha-has, which
function as barriers while invisible from ground level.
“We carefully designed curved walls as they step down,” Taylor
says. “The house is rectangular, the pool also, so the curves are impor-
tant to keep it from becoming too formal, too static.”
Some landscape trees found new homes. A magnificent stewar-
tia once in front of the house now stands beside the kitchen-dining
patio, where its form and flowers show to best advantage. A pair of red
Japanese maples were moved to frame the view of the house from the
street, and a number of lesser trees were removed because they inter-
mounding boxwood covers the slope (above left) between the back of the
garage and the pool terrace. The lumpy shapes make for a playful transition
from building to landscape, while providing an evergreen backdrop for
perennials. Bluestone pavers (above right) line the pool surround and the
outdoor kitchen terraces; walls are granite. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy,’ catmint, and
fountain grass prettily spill over the edges and provide color all summer long.