Creating unity in the garden
Although Woodland Farms encompasses around 316 acres in total, the Richters have focused their design on an area of just 15 acres immediately surrounding the house. Dan Snow’s stone features have been used throughout this area, as a recurring motif to create a sense of unity and to link the garden to the mountainous landscape. They also provide Woodland Farms with a distinctive personality.
One of the first things the Richters did was to thin out the encroaching woodland and give the house some breathing space. They left a few chosen specimen trees, such as mature maples, to link the garden with the wider landscape and to bring the fabulous colours of the New England autumn into the garden. On the hill above the house, the Richters have created a small orchard with simple paths mown into the rough grass. Here they have planted new trees – unusual apples, such as ‘Ashmeads Kernel’, ‘Beacon’ and ‘Yellow Transparent’, which they grow organically, along with peaches, pears, Asian pears, plums and cherries. They have also made a simple arbour from locust wood to support a northern-hardy kiwi, Actinidia arguta ‘Geneva 2’ and closer to the house, dwarf conifers continue the woody theme without creating shade or competing with the expressive stonework.
Dan’s boulders help to bring a sense of the wilderness right up to the Richters’ door, but they are balanced by soft planting. Susan asked Dan to include planting pockets for low-growing plants, such as Euphorbia myrsinites, within the rough terrace that he created from slabs of quarried granite. She also requested the central box-like structure to contain a group of dwarf conifers, which reflect the surrounding woods, as does the Ginkgo biloba ‘ChiChi’ behind, which later in the autumn will turn a beautiful shade of gold.
In such a vast landscape where the surroundings are apt to dwarf buildings, let alone plants, using massive boulders for the terrace helps to balance out distant views and bring the hillside geology into the foreground. At the same time, stone seating and chair-shaped boulders add to the rocky theme. On the south-facing side of the stone-and-timber house, Susan keeps the planting light and loose with lowergrowing perennials, such as Paeonia ‘Garden Treasure’ and P. lactiflora ‘Le Jour’. The stone keeps maintenance to a minimum and is softened by low-growing grasses, such as Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, and shrubs, including Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’ and Stewartia pseudocamellia.