Landscapes of the Month: Crafting a Seaside Retreat - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Landscapes of the Month: Crafting a Seaside Retreat

Photo: Taylor Ahearn

Located in Duxbury, Massachusetts, this client desired a landscape that would look appropriate with their renovated classic home. They wanted a gracious entry sequence with a dry stacked front wall and reclaimed materials to go with the age of the house. They aspired for the backyard to include a variety of spaces for relaxing, entertaining, and spending time with the family. The client wanted a limited plant palette, and desired to maintain and accentuate their ocean views.

Due to the difficulty of the project, this client decided to hire a Blade of Grass, based in Sudbury, Massachusetts, to take on the project. This client was an existing one.

“We were lucky enough to work with this previous client on this new house project,” says Jim Douthit, owner of a Blade of Grass. “We worked closely with the architect and building team for the house renovation to provide a landscape that worked in harmony with the house and really matched the client’s style.”

This project earned a Gold Award in the 2022 Awards of Excellence.

Photo: a Blade of Grass

“A Blade of Grass has been an NALP member for years, so it was exciting and amazing to be recognized with so many other great landscape companies,” Douthit says. “We exist at an interesting intersection of design and construction within the landscape industry as a design/build company, so it’s especially rewarding to be recognized for both aspects of our process.”

One of the challenges presented by existing conditions included the part of the site that was facing the oceanfront.

“The setting of the property, right on the waters of Duxbury Bay, provided the most difficult challenge,” says Douthit. “When you have an amazing view like that, you don’t want to do anything that takes away from it, but you also want to provide the elements that make our landscapes distinct, dense privacy screening, defined outdoor living spaces, and planting the right plants in the right spots.”

The seaside setting does provide multiple advantages, but due to its exposure to wind and salt, it’s also difficult for plants to thrive; therefore, a lot of consideration was put into selecting plants that could withstand those harsher, sea-front conditions.

On top of this, there was also a significant amount of grade change in the backyard, which was a challenge to site a pool within.

The project design addressed these issues by choosing a plant palette carefully to emphasize species that could handle both wind and salt spray. The client desired a restrained color palette in the planting, so the crew decided on evergreen species and mainly white flowering deciduous plant material. The company also planted beach roses and bayberry that would stabilize the slope down to the beach.

Photo: Taylor Ahearn

The crew built up one end of the pool, turning the challenge of the sloping backyard into an advantage, allowing the crew to put the pool fence on a downslope so it is not visible from the pool.

The pool deck is connected to a raised bluestone patio with a custom-built stone fireplace at one end and an outdoor kitchen at the other. This configuration allows for a multitude of entertainment opportunities as well as ample space to sit by the fireplace with friends.

Most planting occurred at the side perimeter to screen the neighboring properties or directly at the house; the ocean views were left open.

During project execution, the main difficulty that was encountered was dealing with the weather. Since it’s an oceanfront property, strong winds were a consistent challenge. The crew worked through the winter with tents over the work area, but the wind constantly blew the tents down.

It was also difficult planting the larger trees with such persistent wind. Since the property is right next to the beach, the native soil is very sandy, so the planting beds required a lot of amendment with loam and organic matter.

Photo: a Blade of Grass

The company also designed the entry sequence at the front of the house to enter through a dry stacked stone wall to match the house’s historic character. The driveway curves toward the front of the house, and a circular courtyard preserves the stately mature tree on site, allowing for a gracious progression to the front door and also the garage.

The entire process, from the beginning of the design to the completion of the installation, took two years.

Interested in participating in the Awards of Excellence? Be sure to enter your projects by July 10, 2023.