A wild border frames the lake admired from a terrace fringed in ferns, hostas, and roses.
A Westchester garden that pleases all the senses.
By Tovah Martin • Photography by Andre Baranowski
Landscape designer Kathy Moreau wants you to submerge into the landscapes she creates with her clients. A glimpse is definitely not what she’s aiming for. Even a long, studied stare won’t do it. When this landscape designer began working on the garden around a lakeside bungalow in northern Westchester County, she was hoping that her clients would take off their shoes and sink in.
A retaining wall levels the pergola-shaded and vine-draped dining patio area.
When Moreau named her practice Verdant View, she was thinking about seeing life from a green angle. But gradually she began to realize that the point of view she was striving to achieve would enlist all the senses. It wasn’t just about what you see, and it was definitely not about glancing at a landscape from a distance. What she wanted to deliver was a scene that beckoned everyone to engage. Total immersion has been her mantra ever since.
Wire fencing on a rustic frame dissuades Canada geese from marching onto the property from the lake.
Ask Moreau about a landscape, and a whole lot of Latin is going to come your way, because she is a rare hybrid between plant nerd and designer. While studying landscape design at the New York Botanical Garden 10 years ago, she split her affinities between horticulture and design. As a result, she is fully conversant with the complete spectrum of perennials, shrubs, and trees in the region. Give her a situation, and she will find exactly the right plant for the job. Plus, she has a personal affinity for native plants and their positive impact on the local ecosystem. As the chairman of horticulture at the John Jay Homestead, she plugged thoughtfully selected plants into the equation whenever decisions were made. That perspective came in handy when she was hired to tackle this lakeside property. What she was given was a water-front view.
What she saw was a multifaceted experience that not only framed the view, but also promised textural interaction for the toes of barefoot family members and guests. She plugged in her client’s sense of smell, and she designed around a blueberry patch and orchard already in the picture. For clients who want it all, she delivers the big picture.
Three years ago, when Moreau was first called into the dialogue at the lakefront property, the placid water was just begging to be framed with flowers. Given a contemporary Craftsman-style house, she saw the potential to play off the details with lush beds of shrubs and blossoms. Plus, her client was fully engaged and on the same page. “She is a gardener,” Moreau quickly learned, “and we’ve been working like partners on the landscape since day one.”
Above: Large windows are framed and softened by sedum, lilacs, and hydrangeas. Below: The pool becomes a work of art with an inset of
groundcovers and stepping stones alongside.
Moreau’s first task was to tackle the swimming pool. A simple rectangular affair, the coping was surrounded by nothing but a border of crabgrass leading up to a retaining wall that leveled the slope stretching down to the water. Her solution? A brocade of creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum ‘Elfin’), stonecrop (Sedum spurium ‘John Creech’), and Irish moss (Sagina subulata) turned the shelf into a tapestry. Plus, she added tufts of annual vinca (Catharanthus roseus) to give the scene a little depth in summer. A path runs the length, but if your step misses the stones and lands in the thymes — all the better. “It’s fully walkable,” says Moreau. “Actually, it’s fully playable as well.” User friendly was the goal. Now, the family is constantly interacting with the newly invigorated version of a formerly forlorn space.
From there, Moreau went on to lay further experiences into the landscape. Although the horizon of the lake was compelling, given a frame of perennial and shrub borders, it is now atotally different, animated experience. Not only did she add iris to the daylilies already in residence, but she enlisted the dancing plumes of wand flower (Gaura lindheimeri) to sway in the breezes. Additionally, she bolstered the inventory of peonies with garden phlox (Phlox paniculata cvs), Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and ‘Vera Jameson,’ Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo,’ Geranium x ‘Rozanne,’ Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), asters, cimicifuga, and lady’s mantle (Alchemilla spp).
A series of stone steps provide easy access from lakeside to the terraced level with shrubs and perennials softening the stone.
At water’s edge, adjacent to the dock, she worked in rudbeckias and helianthus that delight pollinators while extending the blooming season. And a rustic wood gate lends a sense of enclosure. Further, to lure everyone outside there’s a dining area close to the house shaded by a grape and ‘New Dawn’ rose–sheathed pergola. They promise a nose full of scent throughout most of the growing season. That venue is sheltered by ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas and lilacs providing texture and aroma. And that’s just on the waterfront side. The front entrance is dense with the textural interplay of ferns and creeping phlox (Phlox subulata). Brilliantly, she tucked blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium ‘Lucerne’) as a native edging, and it blossoms briskly with purple flowers through spring and into midsummer.
The result is dynamic. Moreau was reaching for “something memorable that would grow with time,” and she achieved that experience with perks. The homeowners are continually drawn into their landscape. If they are inspired to kick off their shoes and wade in, all the better.
Left: A rustic gate partitions off steps down to the water’s edge footsteps from the faux bois bench beneath an apple tree.