Landscapes of the Month: Preserving a Coastal Gem Via Organic Landscape Maintenance - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Landscapes of the Month: Preserving a Coastal Gem Via Organic Landscape Maintenance

Photo: Glengate Company

This beautiful property in Connecticut is a few miles from the Long Island Sound, where it sits alongside an inlet and features a wide range of environments.

Since 2020, the Glengate Company, based in Wilton, Connecticut, has been responsible for maintaining the landscape and finding ways to raise the standards for this site, leading them to win a Silver Award of Excellence for 2023.

“It’s extremely rewarding and encouraging to be recognized by our peers,” says Jennifer Gazerro, maintenance operations manager. “Meeting our client’s needs is our number one priority, and we are always encouraged by their acknowledgment. To know that other professionals in our industry are inspired is very fulfilling.”

Photo: Glengate Company

Glengate has taken the original vision for the landscape and fine-tuned the details to preserve this unique site.

“The property was originally designed by Tara Vincenta of Artemis Landscape Architects, who took what was a blank slate and transformed it beautifully into an estate with large gardens,“ Gazerro says. “Our biggest priority was ensuring that we were maintaining Tara’s design intent while also shepherding the property’s evolution as the client — an avid plantswoman with a sharp eye for design — dreamed up concepts to personalize her landscape. As with every property, we also ensured that the technical foundations for a successful landscape were all in place and functioning, including the lighting, irrigation, lawn and plant health care, and weekly mowing.”

When it comes to lawn care, the homeowners prefer organic treatments, but they do allow a synthetic preemergent in spring to combat the more aggressive weeds, like sterile strawberry and nutsedge. The organic approach allows a few weeds to remain in the lawn, but the owners don’t mind the tradeoff.

This property has abundant wildlife, including deer, groundhogs, and rabbits. The maintenance crews frequently use organic repellents, and groundhogs are humanely trapped and relocated. Another challenge is the rabbits, who like to burrow under the fence, so the team is vigilant about keeping the fence in good shape.

In addition to maintenance, Glengate has been involved with creating new gardens, including a woodland garden.

“The Hollow (Our client’s name for the new woodland garden) was carved out of the last undesigned part of the property,” Gazerro says. “It was overgrown with porcelain berry, Asiatic bittersweet, poison ivy, and other invasive species you might find in the Northeast. The first step was clearing it all out to see what we were working with; we uncovered a charming bit of wood with a small slope and clear area in the center that were perfectly suited for a small waterfall and pond.”

Photo: Glengate Company

 “After Loglisci Water Gardens (of Norwalk, Connecticut) designed and installed this water feature, we got to work creating pathways that followed the natural curves of the pond and the surrounding areas,” Gazerro says. “We used a planting list of almost exclusively native shrubs and perennials — including swamp azalea, rhododendron maximum, Fothergilla, spicebush, Amelanchier, mountain laurel, Leucothoe, assorted ferns, and others.”

Saltwater has played a vital role in selecting plants for this landscape.

“Egret Landing is uniquely situated where freshwater streams meet the Long Island Sound, making the water surrounding the property brackish,” Gazerro says. “Not only does the water rise and sometimes flood the gardens during storms, but there is a constant seepage into the soil. There has been some trial and error, but we’ve had success with bayberry, winterberry, Rosa rugosa, Miscanthus, rhododendron maximum, and Amelanchier. To allow for more plant variety along the water’s edge, we’ve built raised Cor-ten steel beds with adequate drainage to give us control over the salt levels in the soil and expand our plant palette.”

A walk around the property reveals the unique character of the space, allowing Glengate to work with the owners to create a shared vision.

“Our client loves natural elements mixed with whimsy,” Gazerro says. “There’s always something unexpected but not overpowering. It’s a peaceful space to share with her friends and family, including two grandchildren. Mackenzie-Childs birdhouses hang from the trees, bird baths welcome feathered friends, fairies sit on the pond’s edge, wind chimes sway in the breeze, and even a jumbo steel rabbit graces the gardens.”

Photo: Glengate Company

Container plantings around the woodland complement these areas.

 “The containers allow us to add fun and funky annuals to the woodland borders,” Gazerro says. “Rex Begonia ‘Escargot,’ various bromeliads, Rex Begonia Vine, Coleus ‘Fishnet Stockings’ and Cup-and-Saucer Vine are some favorites we now incorporate each season. Honeysuckle ‘Major Wheeler’ is always a show-stopper on some of the custom archways and structures in the woodland.”

For Gazerro, the collaboration between her team, the owners, and the craftspeople has been rewarding.

“It’s always incredibly fulfilling to be given the space and opportunity to maximize our knowledge and skill and show how Glengate can meet challenges and exceed expectations,” she says. “The incredible feedback we receive from our client confirms how we feel — that this is a true partnership where our teams can be proud of their work. It’s a joy to work in such a creative space, and it’s truly a magical place.”

Interested in participating in the Awards of Excellence? Enter your projects by July 29, 2024.

Matt Olson

Matt Olson is a freelancer for NALP.