One of the qualities that sets a mature landscape apart from a recently planted garden is the abundant tangle of plant material. It takes labor-intensive pruning, clipping, clearing and clean-up to ensure that the finest shrubbery and perennials achieve their natural form and lend the seasoned garden a grace and depth uncommon in the new.
A Bethesda family has overseen just such a garden for more than three decades, tended most recently by McHale Landscape Design, which won a 2020 Decade award for maintenance. A specimen wisteria has conquered a porch, while ivy and espaliered pyracantha completely hide stone walls.
“It’s a reserved garden,” says Matt Morris of McHale, who has been steward of the property for close to 15 years, working with the owners’ gardener. Morris defines the secret of maintenance as “advising what to do and more likely what not to do.”
The front yard is a classic: dogwood, azalea, rhododendron and boxwood framing a turf lawn. “Mind you, we have some deer issues that curtail what can be done,” Morris admits.
In back, the terrain is terraced, with a swimming pool slipped into a long, narrow slot at the bottom of the yard, beneath a willow. A koi pond lush with aquatic plants burbles beside a patio. Designed by McHale’s Phil Kelly, it was renovated by Morris and crew a few years ago.
“There’s not a lot of air flow,” Morris notes. “The main challenge is always water. Mother Nature just won’t stop raining on you.”
Award: Decade for Residential Maintenance. Landscape Maintenance: Matt Morris, McHale Landscape Design, Upper Marlboro, Maryland.