Home & Design

It’s not always easy to marry a historic property with modern requirements for sustainability—especially when the landscape is a 16-acre waterfront estate in Easton, Maryland. McHale Landscape Design has worked on this property for almost 20 years, taking special care to preserve iconic trees and shrubs that distinguish the flat landscape as it rolls down to the Miles River—a majestic and expansive waterway which snakes out to the Chesapeake Bay.

Current owners Mike and Ginny Borner were on the lookout for a warmer climate when they decided to move to Easton from their Westchester County, New York, residence about 10 years ago. Little did they know back then that in 2018 Forbes would name Easton one of the top five “coolest towns” in which to have a vacation home in the U.S. The magazine cited its year-round culture combining history, excellent restaurants, galleries, boutiques —and relatively low property taxes to boot. “I didn’t know what the Eastern Shore was,” recalls Mike. “We stumbled upon it and still pinch ourselves every day because we could not be happier.”

The Borners settled on a classic, 200-year-old house overlooking the water that had been renovated from time to time over the years. It had everything they desired, including a swimming pool, a guest house and a long dock where they could keep their boat.

The previous owners tapped McHale to create a master plan for the property. The landscape firm had carved out a lovely drive, lined with a long allée of cherry trees, that curves around to the front of the house, where a charming water element features a sugar-kettle fountain. The landscape was dotted with loblolly pines, magnificent old oak trees and numerous willows—from which the property takes its name, The Willows.

“Willows were part of the original farm fields and farmhouse area, so we’ve added more over the years,” says McHale landscape architect Matt Rhoderick.

When they purchased the property, the Borners were so pleased with McHale’s work that they decided to hire the firm to maintain it and make a few upgrades. As Mike explains, “They knew the property and its history, and we were happy with the appearance.” To get the ball rolling, the couple met with McHale principal Steve McHale, who later brought in Rhoderick to collaborate on the project. Initially, changes in the landscape were left to the firm. “We didn’t have many desires in the way of additions or renovations,” says Mike. “All the ideas came from McHale.”

One of McHale’s main proposals was the construction of a stone parterre garden showcasing flowering perennials including Russian sage, coneflowers, daylily, herbs and catmint, flanked by evergreens including boxwood, cherry laurel and fragrant osmanthus. The garden creates a colorful focal point—a tableau that’s visible from the kitchen. McHale also re-installed a travertine patio around the pool after the former owner replaced a previous patio with lawn.

Eventually, the Borners developed a wish list of their own. Though the firm proposed a new fountain, Ginny asked for a gazebo instead. The couple also wanted a small, enclosed space where they could enjoy casual al fresco meals. This request ultimately led to the addition of a large screened porch on the residence. “McHale came by with drawings for an addition which blended right in with the house,” says Mike.

Rhoderick adds, “The nice thing about working on a property through iterations is that you have an idea of a master plan over phases.” It’s helpful when shaping the space for a new owner, he explains, because “you can pull from that original master plan.”

Since the Borners’ property extends along the water, the team faced environmental restrictions on construction and plantings. The existing lawn was grandfathered in, but to meet Talbot County requirements, new plantings were incorporated that mitigate runoff into the Miles River. Near the swimming pool and around the guest house, for example, McHale planted an array of native shrubs and perennials; today, switchgrass, hibiscus, Black-eyed Susans, viburnum, red-twig dogwood and inkberry holly impart year-round texture and color to the landscape.

When a vacant lot adjacent to their property became available, the Borners purchased it for additional privacy. McHale turned the area into a native meadow, which screens the owners from neighbors and also meets new regulations on sustainability that help protect the environment.

Indeed, the meadow has become a standout landscape element. As Rhoderick explains, “It’s a mixture of grasses, pollinators and native plants, and they provide a succession of flowers and color throughout the year.”

Landscape Architecture: Steve McHale, RLA, principal; Matthew Rhoderick, RLA, lead designer; McHale Landscape Design, Upper Marlboro, Maryland. 

Al Fresco Style The owners of a 15-acre horse farm in Germantown who wanted the landscape to complement their traditional stone house hired designer Julie Patronik of McHale Landscape Design to help them achieve their vision. “They wanted it kind of loose and casual, especially as you moved away from the house,” Patronik says. They also requested plenty of color throughout.

Patronik heralded the new design with a stone entry wall etched with the farm’s name. Stone piers to either side of the drive are enhanced by plantings. Halfway along the main drive, stone columns guide visitors to the right, toward the main entrance. The drive continues straight to the stables at the rear of the property.

Located between the residence and the street, a pond has been embellished with boulders and a fountain in its center. Iris, ornamental grasses, aster and a weeping willow make this formerly nondescript spot alluring. In keeping with the clients’ wishes, it even welcomes Canada geese during their seasonal migration.

Behind the house, Patronik designed a series of linked flagstone terraces, including a main entertaining patio, a kitchen patio with a water feature and a private patio that’s accessible from one of the bedrooms. A long path from the terraced area leads over a bridge to the stables. The clients requested colorful plantings in informal beds; masses of hydrangea, river birch, spruce and perennials tie the entire landscape together.

Jane Berger is a journalist and landscape designer based in Washington, DC.

DECADE AWARD: Total Residential Contracting. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: JULIE PATRONIK and CAROLYN MULLET, McHale Landscape Design, Inc., Upper Marlboro, Maryland. ARCHITECTURE: BRUCE HUTCHINSON, Hutchinson + Associates, LLC, Rockville, Maryland.

Modern Aesthetic Clear and simple: A modern house requires a modern landscape. However, creating the exterior plan for this Bethesda residence was anything but. Mark Voelkel of Rolling Acres Landscape worked closely with the homeowners, architects and builders to come up with a functional, contemporary design that would complement the house. Like the inside, says Voelkel, “The outside should be very functional and at the same time clean and minimalistic.”

The site’s 11-foot drop from back to front presented a challenge. The owners wanted a swimming pool with a terrace, a fire-pit and a spa. While the pool location was not an issue, the spa was a different story. “We went through many revisions of the drawings,” Voelkel recalls. They finally designed it with a vanishing edge and sited it next to an open-air pavilion with retractable screens. From here, homeowners and guests can view the water spilling into a long, narrow basin. A raised edge around the swimming pool serves as a seat wall, while water jets in the deep end allow bathers to swim against a strong current.

In keeping with the contemporary aesthetic, Voelkel installed a minimalist plant palette of ornamental grasses and specimen evergreens. Tanyosho and Thunderhead pines provide year-round interest, while Japanese maples with beautiful red fall color stand out against a stucco-and-stone retaining wall. Two cut-leaf ‘Orangeola’ Japanese maples flank the gateway to the fire pit.

Jane Berger is a journalist and landscape designer based in Washington, DC.

GRAND AWARD: Outdoor Living Area (Design/Build). LANDSCAPE DESIGN: MARK VOELKEL, APLD, Rolling Acres Landscape/Nursery, Brinklow, Maryland. ARCHITECTURE: MARK GIARRAPUTO and MARTIN LOCRAFT, Studio Z Design Concepts, LLC, Bethesda, Maryland. BUILDER: Sandy Spring Builders, LLC, Bethesda, Maryland.

Potomac Playground A formal garden in Potomac needed to reflect the style of the home—a grand, newly built residence designed to evoke a northern European manner. The house was under construction when DCA Landscape Architects was called in to design the surrounding gardens.

“The front yard was kept simple—a lawn and boxwoods with a U-shaped drive—in order to save a huge maple tree,” says landscape architect Amy Mills. For the much more elaborate backyard, the clients requested a series of garden rooms, a pool and pool house and a lawn large enough to provide play space for their children. They also asked for three water features to bring in the appealing sound of flowing water: One is a small stone pedestal fountain with a hexagonal basin surrounded by boxwood and purple blooms; a second, to the side of the house, features an urn with seasonal flowers; and the third is located between two stairways that lead from the lower-level family room up to the main garden. An unusual design element is a large-scale chessboard composed of limestone and flagstone squares with teak chess pieces—a nod to the kids’ interest in the game. It fills a square garden room surrounded by hedges.

The owners tapped Chapel Valley Landscape Company to maintain their extensive landscape, and the company won an LCA award for its efforts. The job includes monitoring irrigation, pruning plant material and nurturing the many species of perennials and annuals that abound throughout the property.

Jane Berger is a journalist and landscape designer based in Washington, DC.

HERITAGE AWARD: Residential Maintenance. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: AMY MILLS, ASLA, DCA Landscape Architects Inc., Washington, DC. ARCHITECTURE: ANTHONY BARNES, FAIA, Barnes Vanze Architects, Washington, DC. BUILDER: JIM GIBSON, Gibson Builders, Washington, DC. LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE: Chapel Valley Landscape Company, Woodbine, Maryland.

Modern Med MARCH/APRIL 2011

A tiled roof, stucco finish and decorative arches lend a California feeling to this Mediterranean-style property in Alexandria. The owners asked landscape designer Morgan Washburn of Botanical Decorators to create outdoor spaces that would complement their home’s minimalist interiors, provide plenty of entertaining space and suit the needs of their active family.

Washburn devised an innovative, contemporary design, locating a pool at the rear of the long, narrow lot and renovating an old garage to serve double duty as a pool house and space for cars. An upper terrace of Turkish travertine seamlessly connects indoor and outdoor rooms, while gracious, wide steps descend to the garden level.

An open, elliptical lawn conceals a cistern underneath that catches rainwater from downspouts and feeds the garden’s irrigation system. A curved stucco wall on one side of the lawn houses a built-in fireplace; upright yews in surrounding beds will eventually hide most views of the pool, lending a mysterious air to the rear of the property.

Washburn considers “very strong geometry and monochromatic plantings” to be the highlights of the design. Cool plantings—Annabelle hydrangeas, blue salvia, agapanthus and blue hostas—surround the pool. In contrast, the ellipse garden contains a warmer palette of oranges, yellows and salmons, while up near the house, the colors are bolder still, with overflowing containers of red ivy geraniums. Washburn included a large planting of herbs on the upper terrace—thyme, basil and a hedge of rosemary—to lend a Mediterranean touch in line with the home’s architectural character.

Jane Berger is the publisher of GardenDesignOnline.com.

AWARDS: Front, Grand, Outdoor Living Area (Design/Build); Rear, Distinction, Outdoor Living Area (Design/Build). LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Morgan Washburn, Botanical Decorators, Olney, Maryland. PHOTOGRAPHY:  MORGAN WASHBURN.

**Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home designs and landscape design ideas.  Wonderful visuals of inspired décor and lush landscapes are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design ideas, and outdoor spaces to life.

Riverside Retreat MARCH/APRIL 2011

A close collaboration between clients and designer transformed a disjointed, 34-acre Eastern Shore property into a magnificent riverside estate. Landscape architect Eric Beane of Chapel Valley Landscape Company was asked to meld scattered elements on the property into a coherent whole.

First, he widened and re-designed a dark, narrow entrance drive through native woodlands to provide a fitting first glimpse of the grand estate. At the end of the drive, visitors encounter a crumbling, rustic ruin reminiscent of an old church—actually a garden folly inspired by those prevalent in Europe in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It's an intimate, secluded retreat that was recently the site of a wedding ceremony.

A circular drive with a large, elliptical lawn bordered in boxwood leads to the newly designed main buildings of the estate. A formal rose garden links the caretaker’s cottage to the main house, the pool, the patio and a tidal pond. A long breezeway was constructed to connect the main residence to the guesthouse, complete with its own walled entrance garden.

In the backyard, Beane added a pergola and fireplace at one end of the swimming pool, along with summertime plantings of roses and ornamental grasses. He also enlarged the main terrace off the rear of the house to provide space for dining and relaxation along with views to the Miles River and the tidal pond. An old concrete platform over a dry creek bed was converted into a charming stone bridge with a stream flowing beneath it.

visit Chapel Valley's website is build incorporating latest web design trends at chapelvalley.com

Jane Berger is the publisher of GardenDesignOnline.com.

AWARDS: Grand, Total Residential Contracting (Design/Build); GRAND, Outdoor Living Area. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: Eric Beane, Chapel Valley Landscape Company, Woodbine, Maryland.

**Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home designs and landscape design ideas.  Wonderful visuals of inspired décor and lush landscapes are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design ideas, and outdoor spaces to life.

Au Naturel MARCH/APRIL 2011

A three-story addition to a residence in Great Falls, Virginia, was the key element in a new,  panoramic landscape design. According to landscape architect Howard Cohen of Surrounds, Inc., the sweeping views from the addition set the tone for the design; the addition had so many windows overlooking the entire backyard that “the garden had to have a broad approach.”

Cohen’s clients did not want a swimming pool, but they did want a koi pond, lots of plants and a space for entertaining. Cohen united the property’s large backyard with a picturesque, river-like water feature that cascades down from one side of the property in a series of waterfalls and ends at the koi pond on the lower level. The naturalistic design includes large boulders, a stone bridge over the water that connects to a secluded patio with an open-air pavilion, and a series of descending stone terraces.

Inside the pavilion, a fireplace, lighting and gas heaters in the ceiling allow the structure to be used well into the cooler months. There’s even a computer screen that descends from the ceiling on rollers to table level so the client can have an open-air work space in beautiful surroundings.

Because the clients wanted a wide array of showy plants and shrubs, they had to do something to keep out the deer. Cohen installed a seven-foot steel fence—far more attractive and sturdier than normal deer fencing—around the property that allowed him to plant such deer favorites as roses, aucuba, daylilies and hydrangeas. 

 

Jane Berger is the publisher of GardenDesignOnline.com

AWARD: Grand, Outdoor Living Area (Design/Build). LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: Howard Cohen, Surrounds, Inc., Sterling, Virginia. PHOTOGRAPHY: Greg Hadley and Brian Rossen.

**Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home designs and landscape design ideas.  Wonderful visuals of inspired décor and lush landscapes are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design ideas, and outdoor spaces to life.

 

Streamlined Style MARCH/APRIL 2011

A double vanishing-edge pool, open decks, a screened porch and masses of colorful plantings are the main components of this contemporary yet classic garden in McLean, Virginia. When landscape architect Anthony Cusat of McHale Landscape Design Inc. first encountered his clients’ long, linear property, it already had a free-form pool with a wrought-iron fence around it that divided the backyard in half. Based on consultations with the owners, his goal was to connect the al fresco spaces and, as he describes it, create an environment “rich in architectural detail, contemporary in spirit and grounded in traditional design.” The clients also wanted him to incorporate the symmetry and balanced proportions of their updated Georgian-style residence.

Cusat designed a new state-of-the-art, three-level pool with two vanishing edges. Water spills from an urn into the upper level, cascades down into the main pool, then spills over another edge into a lower basin. At one end, a glass mosaic tanning shelf sits below water level, creating an area roomy enough for a chaise and a shade umbrella. From upper-level decks and a screened porch, stairs descend to spacious patios surrounding the pool and to walkways that wind through colorful plantings to a serene lawn area. The pool deck and walkways are constructed from Turkish travertine with Pennsylvania flagstone edges; stepping stones through beds of ground-hugging Mazus reptans unify terraces at different levels.  Sweetbay magnolias in spring give way to summer blooms of hydrangea, crape myrtle, catmint, cleome and roses.

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Jane Berger is the publisher of GardenDesignOnline.com.

AWARD: Grand, Outdoor Living Area. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: Anthony Cusat, McHale Landscape Design, Inc., Upper Marlboro, Maryland. PHOTOGRAPHY: Richard Sweeney.

**Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home designs and landscape design ideas.  Wonderful visuals of inspired décor and lush landscapes are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design ideas, and outdoor spaces to life.

 

Gardens Galore MAY/JUNE 2010

 

A grand allée of willow oaks lines the entrance to this 25-acre Potomac, Maryland, property, a perfect welcoming touch to both a stately residence and an ordered landscape that’s home to polo ponies as well as a large family. Jay Graham, FASLA, and Kevin Campion, ASLA, of Graham Landscape Architecture, were brought in by DC-based architect David Jones to design a landscape that would complement the grand Georgian-style residence, which includes a wing with an indoor swimming pool, staff apartments and a garage.

 

According to Campion, because the family spends a lot of time outside, the garden “was laid out as a series of outdoor spaces.” Adjacent to the indoor swimming pool there’s a winter garden with evergreens and river birch trees. In front of the house, an herb garden is tucked into a nook outside the kitchen, and at the rear, bluestone terraces span the width of the home between the garage and the pergola that leads to the pool garden. The landscape also includes an English perennial border; a spacious lawn large enough for weddings; and two long allées of flowering crape myrtles with overlooks at the ends, providing views of the pastures and dressage ring.

 

Graham says he “looks at what the architect is doing,” and tries “to extend it out into the landscape.” In this case, he adds, “The garden is formal in a casual way. The organization gives it some clarity and there’s a relaxed feeling almost everywhere.” 

 

LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Jay Graham, FASLA, and Kevin Campion, ASLA, Graham Landscape Architecture, Annapolis, Maryland. LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE: Hugh Latham, Grown to be Wild Nursery, Brandywine, Maryland. PHOTOGRAPHY: Victoria Cooper, Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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**Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home designs and landscape design ideas.  Wonderful visuals of inspired décor and lush landscapes are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design ideas, and outdoor spaces to life.

 

 

Summer Sanctuary MAY/JUNE 2010

Informal plantings can be the best solution for a very formal landscape: They soften the straight lines of pool, patio, deck and retaining walls, and lend a casual air to a backyard geared for the enjoyment of family and friends. 


For designer Joseph Hafner of Fine Earth Landscape, Inc., combining formal and casual was the key to landscaping a sweeping Potomac property, where a pool and patio created the elegant yet welcoming look he wanted. The main design scheme, says Hafner, was “to create a feeling of under-story and sanctuary down by the pool,” while maintaining views of the landscape from the deck off the rear of the residence. The major roadblock to the design was an existing septic system, which dictated that the pool be built atop special support piers screwed into bedrock 25 feet below grade. Hafner connected the house to the lower landscape with stone retaining walls, planting beds and wide steps to the pool and patio area, which is a generous 2,400-plus square feet. 


A planting of evergreen Japanese cedars on one side of the property maintains privacy by the pool so it can be used well into fall, and plants were selected for deer resistance and interest throughout the year. The blooms begin in spring with the heavy scent of Virginia sweetspire, which gives way to summer-flowering hydrangeas, crape myrtle, black-eyed Susans and other colorful shrubs and perennials. An array of ornamental grasses extends the blooming season well into autumn. 


Washington, DC-based Jane Berger is publisher of GardenDesignOnline.


LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Joseph Hafner, Fine Earth Landscape, Inc., Poolesville, Maryland. PHOTOGRAPHY: Bob Narod, Herndon, Virginia.

**Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home designs and landscape design ideas.  Wonderful visuals of inspired décor and lush landscapes are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design ideas, and outdoor spaces to life.

Summer Sanctuary MAY/JUNE 2010

 

Informal plantings can be the best solution for a very formal landscape: They soften the straight lines of pool, patio, deck and retaining walls, and lend a casual air to a backyard geared for the enjoyment of family and friends. 

 

For designer Joseph Hafner of Fine Earth Landscape, Inc., combining formal and casual was the key to landscaping a sweeping Potomac property, where a pool and patio created the elegant yet welcoming look he wanted. The main design scheme, says Hafner, was “to create a feeling of under-story and sanctuary down by the pool,” while maintaining views of the landscape from the deck off the rear of the residence. The major roadblock to the design was an existing septic system, which dictated that the pool be built atop special support piers screwed into bedrock 25 feet below grade. Hafner connected the house to the lower landscape with stone retaining walls, planting beds and wide steps to the pool and patio area, which is a generous 2,400-plus square feet. 

 

A planting of evergreen Japanese cedars on one side of the property maintains privacy by the pool so it can be used well into fall, and plants were selected for deer resistance and interest throughout the year. The blooms begin in spring with the heavy scent of Virginia sweetspire, which gives way to summer-flowering hydrangeas, crape myrtle, black-eyed Susans and other colorful shrubs and perennials. An array of ornamental grasses extends the blooming season well into autumn. 

 

Washington, DC-based Jane Berger is publisher of GardenDesignOnline.

 

LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Joseph Hafner, Fine Earth Landscape, Inc., Poolesville, Maryland. PHOTOGRAPHY: Bob Narod, Herndon, Virginia.

**Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home designs and landscape design ideas.  Wonderful visuals of inspired décor and lush landscapes are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design ideas, and outdoor spaces to life.

Dramatic Discovery MAY/JUNE 2010

 

When landscape architect Scott Brinitzer encountered this new Bethesda, Maryland, house, it sat alone high upon a hill, isolated from its surroundings. The homeowners wanted an entry sequence so that visitors wouldn’t have to walk up the driveway, in addition to a pool and an outdoor “room” in back. 


To marry the house to its surroundings, Brinitzer designed a series of retaining walls that step down gracefully from the house to street level, creating broad terraces, with a walkway through them, that allow room for handsome plantings.  To the left of the entry-level terrace, a magnificent Southern magnolia nestles in a bed of white azaleas. To the right, three serviceberries obscure the view of the house while still allowing visitors to see through to the front door.


Patterned after the architectural lines of the residence, the area behind the house includes a stucco fireplace, swimming pool and patio. Little Girl magnolias form an intimate canopy around the swimming pool and patio, and soften the effect of the 100-foot-tall tulip poplars that were already present on the property. A raised bed screens the garden beyond the pool, accessible through the small dining terrace. Brinitzer explains that the design moves people through the landscape in such a way that it cannot be seen all at once. “It makes the site more interesting,” he says, “and gives people the illusion of discovery in the garden.”

 

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: Scott Brinitzer, Brinitzer Design Associates, Washington, DC. CONTRACTOR: Gibson Builders, Washington, DC. POOL DESIGN & INSTALLATION: Alpine Pool, Annandale, Virginia. PHOTOGRAPHY: Roger Foley, Arlington, Virginia.

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**Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home designs and landscape design ideas.  Wonderful visuals of inspired décor and lush landscapes are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design ideas, and outdoor spaces to life.

 
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