Landscapes of the Month: Estate Gardens in Fairfax, Virginia - National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Landscapes of the Month: Estate Gardens in Fairfax, Virginia

An existing client of Chapel Valley Landscape Co. hired the company to handle an installation project on a wooded lot that was formerly the home of three different residences.

Sterns Lott, business development executive for Chapel Valley, says they have worked for this family on several other projects over the last couple of decades, including commercial construction projects for the family’s general contracting business.

Photo: Kristin Roe Photography

“We had worked with the owner’s project manager on previous residential projects he had done for the family,” Lott says. “He reached out to us once the landscape architect was nearing completion of the construction documents.”

The intent of the project was to blend the mature woodland with the combined residence and newly installed landscape. The client wanted to retain and transplant existing landscape elements while encompassing new landscape designs.

Lott says in order to accommodate the scope of the design it required more than a single lot to develop all the elements. Campion Hruby Landscape Architects handled the design work and the project documents came out in three phases. Chapel Valley’s work took one year from start to finish. The company earned a Silver Award in the 2020 Awards of Excellence for their work.

Overcoming Challenges

Photo: Kristin Roe Photography

Lott says the most challenging aspect of the project was finding sources for all the plant material. Chapel Valley worked closely with the landscape architect to communicate what was available and worked through changes with the plant palette if they could not find the right plant or knew it wouldn’t perform well in the region.

In the end, Chapel Valley worked with 44 different plant vendors. The project contains over 42,400 perennials and grasses on the site and over 21,000 bulbs. Lott says they used 706 different plant species on the job. There was also a significant number of azaleas on site that were hand-dug and relocated to an azalea garden.

Over the span of the year, non-indigenous and dead/diseased trees, shrubs, vines and bamboo were removed. To rejuvenate the previous landscape and add to the new design, 1,809 cubic yards of topsoil and amendments for the turf and bed areas were brought in.

Photo: Kristin Roe Photography

The company was also working on a confined site and had to balance tree preservation with working with multiple trades occupying the same area at times.

“Working around the mature trees required coordination with consulting arborists and alternative methods of excavation in some cases, such as using an air spade in order not to damage the existing root structures,” Lott says.

Lott says they managed the site tightly in terms of work hours and access for delivery and work vehicles to avoid disturbing neighbors and the community.

Photo: Kristin Roe Photography

“The site did not have a lot of open space to utilize as a nursery or staging area so deliveries had to be orchestrated so that arriving material could be laid out in coordination with the LA and planted quickly so there would be room for incoming shipments,” Lott says. “We could not allow delivery trucks to arrive early to the site and idle and we were diligent to have the appropriate manpower and equipment along with flagmen to get them unloaded and out of the neighborhood as quickly as possible.” 

A property-wide drainage system was installed along with temporary and permanent irrigation, metal edging, foundation ornamental gravel buffer and flagstone pathways.

“There was a significant drainage system designed that included French drains around the house and hardscape elements as well as multi-flow drainage systems installed in the turf areas,” Lott says. “These systems joined, and the outflow points were landscaped dry stream beds with boulders to return the water to a natural area of the property.”

Interested in participating in the Awards of Excellence? Be sure to enter your project when entries open in February 2021.  

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the content manager for NALP.

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