In the northern reaches of Howard County, Maryland, despite new development, you still encounter narrow and winding country lanes, pastoral farmsteads and gently rolling verdant hills alive with native meadows, wetlands and natural ponds. It was just the kind of setting that attracted Bob Haney back in 2001, when he was looking for a new family home.
He found what he wanted in Woodbine, Maryland, on the site of a former farm: five acres that included a spring-fed pond, a new 5,600-square-foot Cape Cod-style home and not much else. “There was no landscaping, no driveway, not a stitch of anything here,” says Haney. For the owner and president of Town Creek Landscaping, Pools and Construction, the site was the blank slate he’d often dreamed of, a place he could craft into a distinctive residence with plenty of room for large gatherings outside around a pool and patio and lots of play space for his three children and all of their friends.
The addition of a sunroom on one wing of the house drove the design for the entire backyard. An elegant upper-level mahogany deck arcs around toward the back of the house, joining a paved entertaining terrace off the family room. A curved colonnade is enclosed by clear acrylic panels topped with a laminated mahogany railing. A box beam supported by white fiberglass columns contains recessed lighting that provides a soft glow akin to moonlight at night.
Haney repeated the curved colonnade along the second-level terrace, which includes a dining area with plenty of seating, a full-size bar and a kitchen with built-in grill, wok, two-burner stove, refrigerator, ice machine and even warming drawers. Additional dining space is located on a lower-level terrace beneath the deck.
One of the main reasons Haney bought the acreage was because of the farm pond. Not only can his children swim, canoe and fish in it; he’s pumped water from it up to the second-level terrace, where a series of waterfalls cascades down to a ground-level lily pool and ripples along a meandering stream back to the pond. The soothing sound of running water carries throughout the site.
Haney did not start work on the swimming pool until 2008, about three years after the rest of the backyard was almost complete. Another curved colonnade around the edge of the pool deck echoes the design on the upper level; a raised semi-circular hot tub at one end accommodates 12 to 15 people. At night, foam jets with fiber-optic lighting erupt from the spa, changing color along the way. Two fire bowls atop poolside pillars add to the magical and mysterious evening glow that’s reflected in the pool and in the waters of the distant pond.
The size of the property allowed Haney to add a number of unexpected features. He cleared a wetland area of invasive plants and seeded it with natives to create a wetland meadow. Now, a small bridge constructed from îpe beckons visitors to a path that snakes through a nature walk filled with indigenous plants and wildlife. The site is home to deer and birds, fox and beaver, and in the pond, snapping turtles and bass.
At pond’s edge, Haney left large patches of native cat-tails in place, but added swathes of ornamental grasses and colorful perennials to create a natural aura—and prevent children from falling in the water. “I wanted it to be a strong enough buffer from a safety standpoint, just close enough to enjoy the pond but to create a barrier that’s not too easy for children to enter,” he says.
An undulating stone path meanders along beds planted with daylilies and lavender, Japanese blood grass and tickseed, ‘Thunderhead’ dwarf Japanese black pines, Russian sage and coneflowers, culminating at an open-air gazebo with decking and a beaded mahogany ceiling. The gazebo overlooks the farm pond and an expansive lawn where Haney’s children and their friends can run around and join in all kinds of sports.
Haney, who also owns a 200-acre nursery, brought home and planted some of his favorite species in large sizes to give his property an immediate presence. They include a 30-foot Japanese cedar; a ‘Lion’s Head’ Japanese maple with curly, crinkled leaves that turn brilliant orange and red in autumn; a fringe tree; and weeping European beeches, Norway spruces and blue atlas cedars, just to name a few.
Next year, Haney plans to build a pool house on the site, a final element that will complete the design plan, making his home a wonderland of beauty and stylish outdoor living.
Washington-based Jane Berger is a landscape designer and publisher of GardenDesignOnline.com. Photographer Anne Gummerson is based in Baltimore, Maryland. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Bob Haney, Town Creek Landscaping, Pools and Construction, Ellicott City, Maryland.