Ray Minella’s expansive English Manor lacked one thing: Landscaping. That’s where Mark Hicks of Elise Nursery came in
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Start From Scratch
Hicks is OK with blank canvases. “That there was no landscaping was obviously a challenge but also a real opportunity,” he says. “A house this size needs a landscape that balances it in order for it to be proportionately comfortable. The property was large enough and had the potential to do that.”
Despite the acreage, the imposing stone mansion is set fairly close to the road. Once Hicks located the upstate New York quarry that produced the Crown Point granite used on the house, he designed an entry courtyard of paving stone from the quarry, then formalized it with a central rose garden and marble fountain inside a classic quatrefoil knot garden of low boxwoods.
In Minella’s view, the courtyard “sets the table visually for the house.” The handsome paving stones appear to swirl around the fountain before flowing to the left and down an extended driveway to the garages and side entrance. The stream-like lay of the stones echoes the water in the fountain and, oddly, softens the impact of all that vertical stone on the facade.
Given the scale of the mansion, it might seem fitting to pack the grounds with a ton of mature shrubs and flowers, but Hicks went the other way with the design. In fact, what’s impressive about the landscaping is how low-key and spare the plantings look. In an airy woodland garden to the right of the courtyard entrance, laurel and rose dance around outcrops of lichen-covered rock. Close to the house, foundation plantings—Boston ivy, weeping hemlock, hydrangea, viburnum—compose an understory that plays against the massive double front door.
Some grand courtyards stop at this point, but here a wide path of Norwegian Buff limestone wanders off to the right, extending the flow. “The trick, and the goal, for us was to have one space blend into the next as you go around the house,” says Hicks. Most interesting, the meandering path leads to private garden spaces that are extensions of the interior rooms where, when home, Minella spends much of his time.