Keswick Estate, Albemarle County, VA: Bringing Nature Home
The clients loved the big white oak tree at the edge of the woods and bought the house in the Keswick Estate just east of Charlottesville, VA because of it. A pavilion was added for another outdoor room from which to view it. But, poor soils, browsing deer and a static design kept the big oak separated, within a sea of mulch, thus preventing it from being truly related to the house in a way that pulled the clients out off the terrace and into the landscape. Meanwhile, the typical spec house foundation plantings had overgrown their space or failed due to deer browse. Inspiration came from Julie Messervy's 'Inward Garden' approach to this 'cosmic tree', creating a 'stroll journey' throughout the space and up under the canopy, a place to pause and reflect back on the beauty of the home's architecture in this setting. The well-travelled clients' art collection from their journeys inspired spaces designed for art outdoors. JMMDS' 'Home Outside' app gave a way to play with the concept plan and provide a quick color render overlay to help the clients envision the results. Information came from Doug Tallamy's 'Bringing Nature Home', helping point the designer to native trees that support more food for fledging birds. More information came from the USDA NRCS soil maps in the geo-locating 'SoilWeb' app created by UCDavis. The famously poor soils in this gated community on former farmland were documented, tested, and a simple plant palette created that actually ADDED turf grass - but a low-growing native&naturalized fine fescue mix grown nearby at Somerset Seed and Sod - and step-able Sempergreen sedum carpet for a low maintenance, deer resistant way to BE in the garden, rather than look AT it from within a frame of roof. Two small 'mini-meadows' of deer resistant native plants complemented the existing native grasses found growing at the woodland edge. Instant Shade LLC had the tree spade and skill to move overgrown nonnative foundation trees to more logical spaces and to bring in native magnolia virginiana (sweet bay), sourwood, and a big red maple. Invasive non-native grasses were removed by Instant Shade as well. TechniRain LLC adapted their irrigation installation to the new plantings. Gentle Gardener Green Design provided layout on site and project coordination.