Wisteria climbs the custom iron trellis, creating a canopy of greenery above the outdoor living area.
The fireplace is flanked by two cheek walls that create a backdrop to the outdoor living area.
The outdoor kitchen is equipped with a grill and storage drawer.
In the front yard, staggered limestone steppers lined with perennials connect the driveway and front walkway.
A pea gravel path leads to a secluded play lawn.
The outdoor kitchen is equipped with a grill and storage drawer.
In the front yard, staggered limestone steppers lined with perennials connect the driveway and front walkway.
A pea gravel path leads to a secluded play lawn.

Child’s Play

Starting with a barren lawn, Scott Brinitzer creates a series of inviting gardens now enjoyed by family and visitors alike

If the mark of a successful landscape is that it looks as though it’s been in place forever, then Scott Brinitzer’s recent project in McLean, Virginia, fits the bill. The landscape architect organized a quarter-acre of empty front and back lawns into a lush retreat with inviting living areas, colorful beds and secret gardens connected by stone pathways.

Brinitzer had several challenges to overcome. One was blending the house—newly built on a teardown lot—into its neighborhood of 1940s-era homes. An “intermediate bed” in the front yard planted with liriope, Miami crape myrtle and Endless Summer hydrangea softens the façade and affords privacy; it shields a lawn where the owners’ two children play volleyball and badminton.

Another goal was to mediate a steep slope from the front entryway walk to the driveway, which leads to a lower-level garage. Indiana limestone steppers now connect the driveway to a new front walk. “The children love to run up and down the steps,” says Brinitzer.

In the backyard, a spacious terrace encompasses an outdoor kitchen and dining area, a fireplace and a seating area. A custom iron trellis enveloped in wisteria defines the space and, as Brinitzer explains, “gives overhead ‘protection’ to the big, open area.”

Adjacent to the terrace, a laurel hedge conceals a vegetable patch where the kids experiment with new crops every spring. In addition to this “special hidden nook,” says Brinitzer, a pea gravel walk leads through beds of ornamental grasses to a 30-foot-square play lawn “large enough for a good soccer game.”

Brinitzer, who carefully planned the project to evolve for generations to come, takes pride in how much joy the kids derive from it. “This garden is meant for roasting s’mores in the fireplace and digging in the dirt,” he says. “It’s meant to be enjoyed and not just looked at.”

Photographer Roger Foley is based in Arlington. 

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: SCOTT BRINITZER, Scott Brinitzer Design Associates, Arlington, Virginia.