A setting at the edge of a forest can be a starting point for a successful garden. With an acre and mature trees already framing the property, a landscape designer can easily fashion distinct garden rooms. And if the owners happen to be collectors, those “rooms” may showcase art amid ornamental trees, flowering shrubs, grasses and perennials—all of which make maintenance essential.
On a Zen-calm Bethesda property, owners first created an Asian-inspired garden. Years later, they commissioned architect Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, to add a pool pavilion. Landscape architect Thomas Rainer, then with Rhodeside & Harwell, unified the landscape using ebullient masses of hydrangea anchored by globes of boxwood, with windblown grasses, ferns and perennials to soften the hardscape—and to set off garden sculptures such as a lettered figure by Jaume Plensa.
“There’s a matrix of reliable plants,” Rainer explains. “Most of the plant palette is ‘blowsy;’ the big thing is the looseness. Plants grow to their full height and volume.”
The task of pruning this paradise has fallen to Shorb Landscaping, a winner of this year’s Distinction award for residential maintenance. “The complexity can offer its challenges at times,” admits Ted Pleiman of Shorb, who sends a three-person team weekly to tame drifts of astilbe, coral bells, hakone grass, hosta, allium and daylily. That’s what it takes “to keep everything looking natural.”
Award: Distinction for Residential Maintenance. Landscape Architecture: Thomas Rainer, PLA, Phyto Studio LLC, Arlington, Virginia. Landscape Maintenance: Ted Pleiman, Shorb Landscaping, Kensington, Maryland. Photography: Melissa Clark.