Commercial Palladio Winner
Exterior Spaces: Gardens and Landscapes
Beauty at Home
Janice Parker Landscape Architects
The long, narrow, 1-acre back yard of a home in Darien, Connecticut inspired Janice Parker to create a classically symmetrical landscape that, she says, has a “modern, relaxed, sharper feeling that’s of the now even though it’s rooted in tradition.”
The owners, who have several children and dogs, had recently completed building a vernacular farmhouse-style home on the property and commissioned Janice Parker Landscape Architects of Greenwich, Connecticut, to design the space.
“It gave me a chance to work against suburbanization, which is what I try to do in every project,” Parker says. “I try to make every detail so it’s not contrived, not stagey—it’s always a fine dance.”
In this case, she pretty much started with a blank slate—the hole for the swimming pool had been dug, and she and the architectural firm Roger Ferris + Partners of Westport collaborated on the design, siting, and use of the pool house, a sleek, simple grey barn-like structure, which like some of the other elements in Parker’s gardenscape defies tradition by veering from the center line.
“My design intent was to honor the disciplined beauty of Connecticut’s historical farmers and use graceful arcs and well-proportioned axial connections to create a blend of the indoor spaces and the larger outdoors—with a focused simplicity,” she says. “The exterior rooms are connected to the house with a series of walkways designed to maximize the vernacular while being mindful of the aesthetic qualities of the space.”
The blending begins at the back of the house, where the covered dining pergola on the family terrace is wrapped in an undulating Campsis radicans (lipstick) vine. It looks over a fish pond and a boxwood-rimmed herb garden planted with annuals, including salvia, pink roses, geraniums, and sweet potato vine.
The purple blooms of the spikey Agastache at the edge of the pergola pave the way for the pool room, which is reached via a stepping-stone path that is defined by grassy joints.
“These areas still retain their strong geometrical focus,” Parker says, adding that the plants will be allowed to take their natural course, creating a “contained natural exuberance.”
Parker strove to create a clear view all the way back to the end of the yard. “I wasn’t excited about bisecting the yard with the path to the pool, but it had to be done,” she says. “I wanted to let the simple lawn be the main event.”
At the end of the pool, directly opposite the pool house, she planted a gravel terrace that features a fire pit in the center and added a stone and grass patchwork swath in a dragon’s tooth pattern between them as a geometric counterbalance to the rectangular pool.
Parker’s favorite tree, a towering Fastigiate beech, festooned with deep-purple leaves, stands guard by the side of the pool house, and across the pool, there’s a stone rectangular terrace for lounge chairs and umbrellas.
The back border of the yard is framed by a green wall of arborvitae fronted by apple trees staggered atop a stone wall.
“I didn’t plan this, but the house is reflected beautifully in the pool,” she says.
Parker furthered softened the space by treating each of the long sides of the yard in a different manner. She followed the straight and narrow property line on the side featuring the lounge terrace, planting it with long hedge rows of “limelight” hydrangeas and layered evergreens as well as a “growing” row of small rounded Coral Burst crabapple trees.
“They do double duty by disguising the fencing, which is in a spare design of wood with a steel grid mesh, and creating a beautiful privacy solution,” she says.
On the side facing the pool house, she didn’t plant in a straight line “because you have to have curves in gardens—they’re not buildings. Curves make it look natural and emphasize the grades.”
There, big evergreens, underplanted with woodland shade plants, including hostas, andromedas, rhododendrons, and ferns, create what Parker calls a “soft not splashy look.” She adds that “there’s color in the spring but not the rest of the year so the hydrangeas take over the garden.”
She rounded out the design with humorous and light-hearted garden ornaments, including a pair of hare sculptures flanking the steps from the house to the grass.
“As with all my projects, I set the garden up so it’s a doorway to the magic of nature,” she says.
Landscape Architect Janice Parker Landscape Architects
Architect Roger Ferris + Partners
Interior Design Full Scale Inc.
Fire Bowl Fire Features
Builder/General Contractor Brindisi & Yaroscak Custom Builders
Landscape Contractor Freddy’s Landscape Co.
Fencing Euro Fence
Irrigation Summer Rain
Pool Signature Pools