Rediscovered Italianate Estate
PLANET – Residential Construction Grand Award
The calm front view and vibrant back garden leading to Lake Michigan obscured the issues facing the landscape design and installation for this 1928 Italian-style home—and how Mariani Landscape used sustainable practices to address them.
Visitors—and the owners—often had trouble finding the home because the driveway entrance was obscure. Just as the installation was beginning, a microburst downed several large trees in the front and the rear garden—taking with them a sense of scale. Another storm flooded the front yard and basement, as city storm drains couldn’t handle the runoff. A large ash tree in the center of the circular drive was at risk for emerald ash borer. The home had been repainted yellow—which could make it appear too “sweet.” The pool in the back garden was small and the owners didn’t anticipate using it. The property had a number of antique stone statues, lanterns and iron gateways that were either in disrepair or didn’t fit the architectural style or space.
A number of solutions were designed into the front garden. They included reducing the width of the driveway to create more green space, working with city civil engineers to create two drain lines down to the lake (removing reliance on city storm drains), giving the yard a 2% grade to facilitate water movement, and installing French drains in the gravel chip driveway to capture the water. In addition, a brick wall was expanded to the width of the property to make the entrance clear. A palette of greens (arborvitae, euonymous alatus, Mareisii viburnum, sumac, spirea) and whites (Annabelle hydrangeas, white roses and magnolias) softened the color of the home. The ash tree was treated and saved, and a tired stand of white pines was nourished and supplemented, making the most of existing foliage and adding to the privacy and romantic feeling of the home.
The owners wished to have an unobstructed view to the lake in the back garden. To avoid city-mandated handrails near stairs, three levels were created with bluestone: back patio, pool terrace and lake overlook. They were separated by formal plantings of boxwood and barberry to create parterres with weigelia and edged with colorful sedums. To give a sense of proportion, large urns with boxwood and ivy anchored the corners of the pool terrace, and a pergola was created on the south side of that level. The pool became a water feature with the introduction of arching jets. Family and friends now had inviting options to relax and enjoy the garden as conversation areas were created on all levels. This included a dining area near the water. The steep slope next to it featured red daylilies, rugosa roses, and “Tardiva” hydrangeas to create a spectacular show of successive summer bloom.
Mariani located a conservator and arranged to have the antique statues cleaned and repaired, and then tucked them into garden borders. Other accessories not in keeping with the style of the home were recycled through an architectural artifacts firm, rather than thrown away.