Home & Design

Southern Crème boulders form a pathway to the fountain, framed in purple mazus ground cover.

The approach to the house is flanked by halka zelkova trees, chosen for their Y-shaped canopy.

Rows of crape myrtle border a gravel path around the property’s periphery.

A seating area beside the driveway is delineated by pea gravel, boxwood and coreopsis.

An outdoor kitchen, situated on a patio paved in Western Maryland stone, overlooks the sweeping backyard.

A sloping garden of fountain grasses borders the side of the house.

A porticoed outdoor room spills out to a small patio and custom fountain.

A boxwood garden in front of the house is encircled by the drive.

A Formal Approach

A grand European sensibility distinguishes a sprawling Potomac property

A couple building a house on nearly four acres in Potomac tapped McHale Landscape Design to create a master plan for the site while construction was still underway. The abode would convey a French Country aesthetic, and they wished the grounds to reflect this sensibility.

McHale’s Julie Patronik and her team conceived a design with formal, European-style elements, beginning with the approach to the home—a long drive flanked by a canopy of Y-shaped halka zelkova trees. The drive curves to reveal the sprawling, gabled house behind a stand of cryptomeria. “The idea was to be formal around the house,” Patronik recounts. “The beds by the entry are bordered by evergreens that retain their structure in winter, filled in with perennials and plenty of annual color.” The drive encircles a neat garden of boxwood and Russian sage within a retaining wall; on the side of the drive facing the house—directly opposite the front door—an iron bench nestles in a pea-gravel niche between matching flower beds.

In the more casual backyard, the landscape centers on a luxuriant lawn fringed with perennial beds. There are two patios; one with an outdoor kitchen is intended for family use while the other, anchored by a Southern Crème stone fireplace, is used for entertaining. Pea-gravel and boulder paths lead down from the patios to a lower-level outdoor room with a fireplace and TV that overlooks a picturesque custom fountain.

The home’s exterior beige-and-cream palette inspired the hardscape—a combination of Western Maryland paving stones in warm earth tones and Southern Crème stone in reds and browns. The latter also clads the fountain, kitchen and retaining walls.


What advice do you give homeowners embarking on a major landscape project?
A well-thought-out design and implementation takes time. It’s a long-term investment, so doing revisions and understanding the designer’s vision is important.

Do you have a favorite style of landscape?
I appreciate all well-designed spaces. From clean and contemporary to eclectic cottage garden—I like them all!

What trends are you seeing in outdoor spaces?
Outdoor kitchens and fire features are still going strong. Environmental concerns are evident; clients are interested in pollinator and rain gardens, composting, organic pest and weed control and capturing water in cisterns for irrigation.

What factors do you consider when selecting plantings?
We select plants based on environment and consider the ultimate size of trees, shrubs and perennials. If budget is a concern, a garden of English boxwood and Japanese maple is going to cost more than one of ornamental grasses and perennials.

Landscape Design & Maintenance: Julie Patronik, McHale Landscape Design, Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Architecture: Glenn Chen Fong, AIA, PLLC, Arlington, Virginia. Builder: Natelli Homes, LLC, Gaithersburg, Maryland.

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