A look into this stunning four acre property in Fairfield County
photographs by Amy Vischio
A beautiful landscape requires the combination of yin and yang: structure and ornament, hardscape and plantings. So when a couple who respect each other’s strong but opposite preferences set to work on creating their gardens together, the result can be perfectly complementary. In the case of an expansive, four-acre property in Fairfield County, a mix of his love for a garden’s architecture—walls and bridges, flowing water, and trees—and her talent for design—plants, flowers and color—has resulted in a strong but serene environment that its creators both appreciate and enjoy. This collaboration was not their first. Over their long life together, husband and wife had bought and renovated six houses before their current home, and the structure as well as the landscape of this one—the seventh—have evolved over fifteen years of ownership. “We did a little each year,” says the wife. “The house needed a lot of tender loving care, so as we went along, we worked both inside and outside.” The home was updated, upgraded and expanded. Meanwhile, the exterior vision took shape. Because the couple has a demanding schedule, their time together is precious, and both enjoy their walks around the property, often in the morning, when they can talk about the gardens—and everything else. In fact, these walks have been the genesis of many landscaping ideas that have come to fruition over more than a decade. The process continues to this day.
“Every time I think we’re done, I hear from them,” says Matt Almy of his clients. Matt, landscape designer for Oliver Nursery in Fairfield, has assisted the couple since their earliest days of ownership. The initial project, a rock garden that features a pair of Adirondack chairs as a focal point, led to many others. The husband, who loves trees, continually seeks out beautiful and unusual specimens. His finds dress the landscape in locations selected not only for qualities hospitable to growth and health, but also for visual impact. On a walk across the property, there is no need for anyone to point out a Japanese maple near the back porch. In its winter dormant, leafless state, the tree’s unique branching pattern gives it a fluid, eye-catching shape. “There was a Japanese maple planted at my husband’s office that outgrew the space, and he was thinking about it for awhile. Eventually, he proposed the idea to Matt to bring the huge tree to our home,” she says, even though it was quite a challenge to move and replant it. “He was correct about its beauty,” recalls Matt, “but it was quite an endeavor.”
Other distinctive trees include a coral bark Japanese maple, which adds brilliant crimson to the landscape, a perimeter border of emerald green arborvitae interspersed with contrasting Hoopsi blue spruce, and beautiful specimens of redwood with delicate spring-green needles. The husband constantly adds to the collection. “We’ve taken some field trips together to look at special trees,” notes Almy. Everywhere one looks, there are species with distinctive shape, bark, leaves, or color—or some combination of these four. While the structure provided by the trees, shrubs and stonework gives form, shape and interest to the landscape in all seasons, spring and summer reveal the wife’s artistry with flowers and plants. During the warmer months, each of the garden rooms that the couple has created bursts with blooms and beautiful foliage. From the kitchen garden to a new Zen space, a walk in any direction draws the eye from one appealing vignette to another. In addition to its many paths, the landscape also serves as a living stage for entertaining. One year’s project included the construction of a dining pavilion with full kitchen to complement the pool and adjacent herb garden. The pavilion, following in form the classic proportions of a Greek temple, is enfolded by trees and plantings, and offers beautiful views of the home and grounds. A pivot point on the landscape, it is equally enchanting when observed from the house.
The house is on one of the town’s few substantial parcels of land, and the couple made use of a stream that flows through the property, accenting its curved path with fieldstone banks and bridges. The stream adds the sound of water to bird song and the movement of the wind through the property’s woodland areas. As a result, these gardens create a feast for the senses. Asked if this has become the couple’s forever home, the wife admits there’s probably room for one more project, though for now, the property has become a restful sanctuary. “I think we’ve finally arrived at a year when we’ll just leave the place as is,” she says and smiles. But that may be difficult.
As a gift to his wife, the husband compiled a book about the garden’s many features, with images taken over the years and seasons. In it, he captures a dialogue they have had many times, referencing his constant wish to build or plant something, and hers to relax and enjoy. Again it’s yin and yang, and the conversation is worth repeating:
He: Nature is beautiful. It just needs a little tweaking.
She: Leave it alone. I’d like just one year when I don’t wake up to construction.
He: I have an idea.
She: No, please….