For Amy Schimmel Bessolo, a landscape architect at Pontiac’s Goldner Walsh Garden and Home, a recently completed project in Franklin (and a stop on Franklin’s 2021 spring garden walk) began simply, with a vision of “elaborating the backyard to make some useable spaces.”
The end result, however, is far from that. Bessolo and her team at Goldner Walsh, along with Derek Spurlock of Spurlock’s Natural Stone and Brick Paving, transformed a one-plus-acre lot into a breathtaking retreat complete with a stunning array of specimen trees and perennials, limestone paths, a wooden observation deck, and a multilevel stream that rolls down the property into a large koi pond.
The project, which began in 2014 when the homeowners wanted to elevate their minimally landscaped lot, expanded over multiple phases and years, and was completed in 2021. “They had a pergola and a sitting space when I started, but it was just a very large piece of land with plenty of room to sprawl out,” Bessolo recalls. A decision to clear the land of scrub growth gave the landscape architect the ability to create the relaxing escape the homeowners longed for.
Among their requests was to add a koi pond. Bessolo recommended that it be designed and installed by Spurlock. Around the pond, Bessolo added a beautiful dawn redwood specimen tree, along with multiple river birch trees whose appreciation for water-loving soil made them an ideal choice for the area.
“The homeowner is a big tree guy and he loved coming to the nursery and picking out unique specimens,” Bessolo says. “Everything that went in was hand-selected by him and me from the nursery. He wanted it to look old and established; he didn’t want it to look like a new landscape.”
To accomplish that goal, dogwood, serviceberry, paperbark maple, forest pansy redbud, several varieties of Japanese maples, and more rare and unique specimens such as a red obelisk beech tree and a weeping Norway spruce were added to the design plan. “While there are a lot of unique specimens within the landscape, it really feels natural,” Bessolo says.
The addition of two limestone staircases on each side of the home gives the homeowners multiple access paths to the property’s lower level. Recently, a wooden observation deck was installed by Spurlock to provide yet another opportunity for the homeowners to unwind. “The finished design really immerses you and makes you feel completely surrounded by the landscape,” Bessolo says. “It’s not a big space, but it’s enough to have a table for two and it’s a great space to enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine.”
The observation deck, which is positioned at the center of the yard’s slope, is an ideal space for viewing and listening to one of the waterfalls that are part of the stream. Installed by Spurlock, the stream looks as if it were a natural part of the land, with several levels of pooling water and multiple stone bridges. Bessolo made it “all melt into the landscape,” thanks to the perennial gardens she had planted not only to hug the borders of the stream and pond, but to wind throughout the dreamlike property and its stunning hardscape spaces.
The landscaper says selecting the right materials proved to be one of her biggest challenges, as each item needed to be resistant to the local deer population. Today, the gardens bloom with more than 25 different perennial varieties including ligularia, hellebore, Virginia bluebells, ferns, brunnera, pulmonaria, iris, and Japanese forest grass.
“A lot of times when you add on to a project, it looks like you added on. But that’s not the case with this project. It feels very consistent, and I think that’s because the same team worked on it the whole time,” Bessolo says, referring to the crews at Spurlock and Goldner Walsh. “This was a team effort by both of our companies and the homeowners.
“It really came together; it’s an oasis from the outside world.”
MORE INFORMATION: goldnerwalsh.com