Zen Garden

Asian design elements and a serene sensibility refine a Bethesda property

While installing a pool on their one-acre lot, the owners of a contemporary house tasked Wheat’s Landscape with creating a connection between the pool scape and residence.

The pool is located on axis with a large picture window at the back of the house. Inspired by the home’s spare, clean architecture, landscape designer Mark Finlayson sited a Japanese-style Zen garden beneath the picture window. Flanked by existing concrete patios—one for dining and one for lounging—it extends to a linear fire pit and a spa, with the pool beyond.

“The pool was like an island out in the yard,” Finlayson explains. “We made connections with materials.” A border of cobblestones and Mexican beach pebbles frames the pea-gravel garden. Natural boulders from West Virginia are strategically placed amidst moss and lichen, while rectangular slabs of Pennsylvania bluestone act as a bridge between the patios.

A Japanese maple nestles beside the garden. A river birch provides a focal point at the far end of the pool, and border plants include hydrangea and ornamental grasses. The property is screened by cryptomeria and Nellie Stevens holly, with dogwood, Eastern redbud and serviceberry trees sprinkled in.

To the right of the pool, an ipe deck provides space for lounging. To the left, an expanse of lawn creates play space for the kids.


Award: Grand Award, Outdoor Living Area. Landscape Design: Mark Finlayson, CPH, Wheat’s Lawn & Custom Landscape, Inc., Vienna, Virginia. Pool Installation: Alpine Pool & Design Corporation, Annandale, Virginia. Photography: George E. Brown.