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Designer House landscaping features a mix of styles


A stroll through the grounds and gardens at this year’s Bucks County Designer House & Gardens offers an inspiring feast for those who enjoy spending time in their own gardens and landscapes.

Working with contours, using appropriate plant materials and elevating a property’s natural assets exemplify this year’s designer house gardens and landscape.

With 14 different landscape professionals showcased at the event, Andrew Eckhoff said it boasts a broad array of styles and approaches for patrons to enjoy. Eckhoff is general manager at Bountiful Acres in Buckingham.

“At the designer house, you’re sure to find (gardens and beds) you’ll relate to,” he said.

Incorporating unusual textures, colors and plant materials you may not consider, container plantings can expand outdoor potted plant choices.

Think of containers for your property in the context of the landscape backdrop and your home’s architectural features. Container gardens are a popular and distinctive way to add plant features to your patio, deck, porch and in the landscape, too. Innovative approaches to container gardens are used throughout the property.

“We are doing a bunch of mixed containers on terraces and in front of the hospitality center to show what you can do with mixed succulent planters, and flowers in an assortment of deep rich tones,” Eckhoff said.

Repurposing vintage farm implements — including a spreader from the 1950s — as large planters is one inventive approach used by Eckhoff to re-imagine container gardening. Classic black cast iron planters with matte gray galvanized pots set the stage for plant material to shine.

“For this setting we thought the metal did justice to the architecture and surroundings,” Eckhoff explained.

He said mixed succulent and sedum bowls don’t require a lot of fuss but they provide a glorious, low-maintenance show all season long.

“They’re drought tolerant and with sedum and hens and chicks all mixed together you can combine them with spiky corn plants from gray to blue, green to mahogany and ruby colored,” he said.

Color is a powerful tool. Color choices in the landscape are important and complementary features of the property’s overall aesthetic.

Marion Gavigan, owner of ColorKonzepts in Doylestown Township, said her designer house space was the former smokehouse, an outbuilding on the property with a focal point view.

“Considering it’s an historic home, I wanted to create something that was updated but still have a rustic theme,” she explained.

The comfortable and cozy space is done inside using darker in a blue/gray with a subtle green undertone to draw attention to the expansive outdoor views. The gray flooring compliments the space.

When advising clients about color choices, Gavigan offers these question insights:

• How do you live?

• What do you like?

• What do you want to see on your property?

“Then we’ll tie (the answers) in with their favorite colors, and what looks nice in the surroundings of the house,” she said.

Thomas Hebel, president and landscape designer at Bucks Country Gardens in Doylestown said landscape displays at the designer house incorporate gardens, patios and porches.

Working with indoor and outdoor spaces allows Hebel and his team to display designs, gardens and lifestyle pieces like patio furnishings.

Donna Dentner, Bucks Country Gardens designer and lifestyle manager said the front entrance furnishings provide a restful retreat for morning coffee or a leisurely afternoon with tea and lemonade.

The three-piece café set is complemented by a cast aluminum sofa, end table and performance material rug.

“Because it’s off the kitchen it’s a nice retreat for them to come outside and enjoy,” Dentner explained.

Potted plants at the entrance add pops of color, including tropical plants and annuals.

The side porch includes a traditional all-weather wicker seating area in black with canvas cushions in granite. Topiary planters complete the space.

The irregular bluestone patio features a fire pit and marine-grade polymer outdoor Adirondack chairs in coastal gray with “…potted plants to soften the feel of the patio,” she said.

Anchored by mature shade and ornamental trees meant Hebel’s team already had foundation landscape elements to build upon.

Filling in gap spaces with roses, hydrangea, coneflowers and ornamental shrubs creates visual interest while some anchoring evergreens bring the design together.

“Green mountain boxwood and variegated osmanthus create seasonal interest,” Hebel said.

Shrubby peonies and ground covers like phlox round out the landscape’s menu.

Jon Apple, a landscape designer at Bucks Country Gardens said the long view includes seasonal color to transition from fall and “…still add some interest in the landscape over the winter so it doesn’t all go away.”

The property owner had an important role in plant selection because the plantings will remain, and they will be able to enjoy the majority of the landscape and plantings for many years to come, Hebel said.

Apple said an edible garden with apple trees, blueberry bushes and herbs is also part of the overall plan, with special attention paid to selecting plants able to stand up to the rural area’s wildlife.

In Bucks County “everything has to be deer browsing tolerant,” Apple said.

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