Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: Harmony Farms, Greenwich, CT

Landscape Designer: James Doyle Design Associates, LLC, Greenwich, CT; James Doyle, principal; Kathryn Herman, partner; Matthew Willinger, landscape designer

Contractor: Sandoval Landscaping & Masonry, Inc., Stamford, CT; Oscar Sandoval, principal


Exterior Spaces – Gardens & Landscapes
Winner: James Doyle Design Associates

Bucolic Beauty

By Nancy E. Berry

Rustic stone walls, hedgerows of hornbeam, antique apple trees, lilac bushes and perennial gardens look as though they have always been part of the landscape at Harmony Farms, an historical farmstead in Greenwich, CT. With its terraced gardens and fruit trees, it's hard to image that just six short years ago the eight-acre property bore little resemblance to its current, award-winning appearance.

After a 2004 renovation to the home, the owners were ready to rejuvenate the landscape. They wanted to return it to its original intent – growing fruit, flower and vegetables – as well as create garden spaces they could enjoy year-round. Thoughtful execution and impeccable detailing of the project by James Doyle Design Associates (JDDA) earned the firm its second Palladio Award in two years.

The owners hired the design firm to create a landscape that would bring back the farm aspect of the property while remaining respectful of the architecture of 1800s farmhouse, barn and guest cottage. "As Francophiles and Anglophiles, they wanted their property to emulate gardens found in Europe," says Matthew Willinger, landscape designer on the project.

"The goal of evoking the sensibilities of old world spaces was realized by creating structure in the landscape," says Kathryn Herman, partner at the firm. The European garden is all about form, geometry and pattern – and the client wanted to develop those themes within the context of this property. The design team, which included principal James Doyle, began to devise a well-conceived foundation for such a landscape to thrive.

"The house, as many old houses do, sits close to the street," says Willinger. "The grade of land itself, a narrow steep slope that runs from the road to wetlands, was our greatest challenge." Because of the steep slope, the lower grade was not easily accessible. The solution was to create terraced gardens, which divided the land into manageable garden rooms. Formal gardens were placed around the main house while physical and aesthetic "bridges" connect those formal spaces with the less formal bucolic surroundings. Retention walls, built from reclaimed Connecticut fieldstone, partition the grade changes on the property. Stone steps provide access to the varying levels. "Descending from the house, the design evolves from formalized spaces to a rustic landscape that echoes the history of the site," says Herman. Hornbeam and beech hedges define distinct spaces while also creating additional structure and providing a continuity of design elements.

A low masonry wall and aerial hedge define the entry parterre. A neutral colored gravel walkway, which contrasts with antique granite slab pathway, leads to the home's entryway. "The granite adds a wonderful patina to the setting," says Herman. The clients love to entertain, so the design team incorporated a brick dining terrace and lounging area complete with stone fireplace. Instead of umbrellas shading the southwest-facing terrace, four cubed Linden trees shade the dining table and offer an intimate setting. The furnishings for these spaces are custom designed from reclaimed teak.

The perennial garden, which is on axis with the house, is enclosed with hornbeam hedges. To soften the stone retaining walls that define the contours in the landscape, antique climbing roses, such as Comte de Chambord, Zephirine Drouhin, Blanc de Vibert and Felicite et Perpetue are found growing up the walls. The Taxus capitata allee, planted with fine fescue grass and white feathery caraway flowers, acts as a physical connection between the formal and the informal gardens. A custom-designed garden gate at the end of the Taxus capitata allee leads to the apple, plum and apricot orchard.

McHutchison Horticultural Distributors of Wayne, NJ, and The Plantage of Mattituck, NY, supplied plant material. Other key suppliers included Richardson Allen of Saco, ME, and Mecox Gardens of Southampton, NY, both of whom supplied furniture; and Connecticut Stone of Milford, CT.

"We chose an organic program in the gardens and orchard with little use of chemicals," says Willinger. Antique apple tree cultivars (21 trees in all) in the new orchard include: Cox's Orange Pippin, Bramley's Seedling, Grimes Golden and Gravenstein. Willinger was careful to preserve the existing apple trees on the property and incorporate them into the new orchard. Under the fruit trees, the team planted Fritillaria meleagris along with daffodil bulbs that allow for a profusion of color in the early spring. To further the connection to Harmony Farms' past, JDDA planted a vegetable garden, cutting garden and rows of raspberry and blackberry bushes supported by custom-made wood trellises, which provide an abundance of produce.

"These clients are very engaged with the gardens – they harvest the vegetables, berries, apples and plums, as well as fill their home with cut fresh flowers," says Willinger. Although the gardens are forever evolving, the outcome is a serene, agrarian setting that the homeowners will enjoy for years to come. 

Nancy E. Berry is the editor of New Old House magazine and the author of two books on design. She lives in Yarmouth Port, MA.



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