When I first toured the property - which had been loved by the Belfiore family for over 60 years - I had a vision of what it could be: a historic home graced with beauty, light, flow and open views to verdant gardens with seasonal colors. In shaping the gardens, I looked to the loose plantings of English gardens for softness, as well as the clipped landscapes of Belgium for structure appropriate for a city plot. Executing this vision has been a labor of love and a learning experience.
Before (above) and after (below). The house was sandblasted and re-stuccoed; layers of paint on the shutters were stripped to reveal their early painted surface; front door was relocated to the side; and boxwoods, yews and a leveled lawn replaced a weedy yard.
What have I learned? Invest in energy efficient windows and doors - worth every penny in DC where temperatures can go from near zero to almost 100 degrees. Invest in an irrigation system because there will be times when you just don't want to be outside in the heat. Design a garden with a succession of blooms, and choose plants that flower for a long period, because garden tours are more fun when you don't have to keep saying: you should've seen the garden last week when it was blooming. How tiring that becomes!
And just to clarify: we are not leaving the DC area, nor is our shop moving. We simply want to downsize to a smaller home here, so that we can spend more time at our summer home in Maine. We love both Washington and Maine!
Soon I will show the other rooms of the house along with before and after photos. But first, DC had its first snowfall of the season - always magical! Yes, I still rush to the window when I wake up to see if there is snow. Here is our garden dressed in winter white.
It has taken six years for the Nellie Stevens holly hedge to finally form an arch over the front steps - there's about seven feet of clearance under the arch. By the way, Nellie Stevens is a treasure - it's a handsome, hardy and healthy holly! A row of them provides privacy; also a dramatic backdrop for white flowers.
I custom designed the cedar gates with square spindles set on the diagonal. The span is about six feet, which is the width of the crushed gravel walk currently blanketed by the snow.To avoid footprints, I drove around front and braved the icy steps to snap these photos in the frigid cold :)
Looking across the front garden (or "sundial garden" when I'm feeling fancy), the structure of the eight sheared European hormbeam trees can really be seen during winter. The low yew hedge behind is punctuated with another cedar gate. Instead of closing off this garden, I designed this gate to allow friendly passage to and from the neighbor's garden. And the break in the hornbeams provides a borrowed view of our neighbor's stately magnolia trees - it hints at gardens beyond.
BELOW: Eight more sheared hornbeam trees anchor the other side of this garden. Hollies, boxwoods, yews, laurels and ivy stay green year round.
Here are more photos of our garden in previous winters, starting with my robust little friend. Our garden is frequented by robins (along with cardinals, mourning doves, hummingbirds, etc).
A view of the walled courtyard dusted in white. This was the last garden I designed on our property - it's a lovely, private and protected outdoor room.