Home & Design

Photo: Andrea Hanks

Photo: OvS

Photo: David Burroughs

Photo: David Burroughs

Photo: Andrea Hanks

Photo: Andrea Hanks

Perfect Symmetry

Oehme, van Sweden imparts a formal, European sensibility to a picturesque McLean estate

It all started with an ailing privacy hedge. Homeowners initially called on Oehme, van Sweden to replace a row of aged Leyland cypress rimming their nine-acre McLean property—but plans for an at-home wedding soon expanded the project’s scope to a comprehensive redo. Landscape architect Eric Groft of OvS conceived a plan that ultimately spanned the original parcel as well as surrounding lots the owners had purchased over time. “Our goal was to create a strolling park that would act as a thread connecting the entire estate,” says Groft.

The couple’s Mediterranean-inspired manse dictated a European aesthetic characterized by symmetry, formality and the use of stucco and limestone, which clad the house. In front, a scenic approach terminates in a new forecourt framed by 24-foot-tall Thuja nigra arborvitae that replaced the defunct cypress trees “for instant effect,” says Groft. A limestone veranda now enhances the front façade, where a series of French doors formerly opened out to nothing; piers support large bowls of colorful annuals.

A linear series of gardens follows axes emanating from the house. In back, a bluestone dining terrace lined with crape myrtle leads to an existing swimming pool that was revamped with a limestone surround; a fountain anchors the far end. To one side, Groft conceived a walled garden festooned in white perennials, with stepped walkways culminating in a limestone fountain imported from France. An adjacent roundel defined by cherry trees and limestone ingots surrounds a fire pit nestled in pea gravel. Further out, a woodland garden carpeted with purple phlox and native plants abuts a wide swath of lawn where the wedding took place.

Groft enlisted Walnut Hill Landscape Company to install and build out the project. They ultimately added 150 trees, 2,500 shrubs, 21,000 perennials and thousands of bulbs to the property. Says Walnut Hill principal Michael Prokopchak, “The planting combinations are beautiful. There’s something happening in this garden year-round.”

Landscape Architecture: Eric Groft, FASLA, Oehme, van Sweden | OvS, Washington, DC. Landscape Contracting: Michael Prokopchak, ASLA, Walnut Hill Landscape Company, Annapolis, Maryland.

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