Landscaping + Outdoor Living: Case Study

Al Fresco Living: The founder of Chapel Valley Landscape Company creates his own backyard oasis

J. Landon Reeve owns 34 bucolic acres in Woodbine, Maryland. Home to both his residence and his firm, Chapel Valley Landscape Company, the property is heavily wooded, but near the house, woods give way to a pristine lawn and poolscape.

Reeve and his wife completed a major overhaul of this beautiful backyard in 2001, and the property earned a 2014 Decade Award from the Landscape Contractors Association. With mature vegetation and a timeless design, the property remains an inviting refuge. “The whole design was planned for entertaining,” says Reeve’s wife, Dallas. “We have grandkids nearby. Everything we did was with friends and family in mind.”

A flat expanse of lawn can hold a tent for big parties, while the adjacent pool area is framed by pergolas that allow for a longer swimming season by buffering against the elements. Slate paths lead conveniently to the house, tennis court, driveway and nursery.

The new design was challenging. “We had the septic system to work around,” says Landon. “And we had to get the grade right. There are a deep swale and water from the woods runs into it naturally. We sited the pool by it, but elevated it to avoid flooding.” A curved, 200-foot-long retaining wall separates the yard from the woods; a summer garden of lilies, iris, coneflowers and pink and white flox nestles on the slope where the woods begin. “It’s a tapestry of plants, so we have variations of color even when they’re not blooming,” says Reeve.

Wisteria drapes the pergolas and neat rows of boxwood delineate paths and beds. Pots of hibiscus and petunia add color to the pool deck.

Landscape Design: J. Landon Reeve IV, Chapel Valley Landscape Company, Woodbine, Maryland. Photography: Jeff Atkinson.

J. Landon Reeve’s Trade Secrets:

  • Hire a good landscape architect who can help with the setting of the pool and make each element flow together. We wanted a garden with a pool in it; we didn’t want it to be all pool. Make sure your landscape is balanced.
  • Nowadays, you see more hardscape and fewer plants. I prefer not to take away from the plantings with too much hardscape.
  • Make sure your site plan accounts for drainage and location of the sun. Is the lighting good for what you want to do in your yard?
  • Remember how your landscape is going to be used and don’t get carried away with frills. It should be beautiful, but not at the expense of making it uncomfortable.
  • Get advice on plantings from nurseries and other experts.