Most of our work is focused in Indianapolis, but sometimes we get to take on exciting projects further outside the city. This lovely property is hidden away on a small lake in the woods of Greencastle, Indiana.
This is a special project with a unique story. The couple who owns the property wanted to build a LEED certified, native-plant-friendly getaway where the family could gather from Indianapolis and Peoria on the weekends. This secluded former farm in Greencastle had belonged to the family for years, so it was the perfect site. Our designers worked together along with Cardno JFNew (an environmental consulting company and native plant nursery) to create a master plan for the 250 acre lot. Most of the site is a native forest and prairie restoration project. Within this larger plan, our team mapped vehicular and pedestrian routes and created nodes for activity.
The design around the house is a series of geometric walls that terrace down to the lake. The walls are punctuated with limestone outcroppings to add rhythm and spontaneity. The walls are meant to emulate the quarries of southern Indiana, where the couple spent their early years in Bloomington. They remembered the limestone featured in the architecture at Indiana University, and wanted to bring their history as a couple into the design. The planting plan with is filled with native species and a few non-native plants to transition from the wildness of the woods and prairies to a more planned and structured feeling to help integrate the house into the landscape. Join me for a virtual walk around the gardens of this incredible home!
As you come to the end of the long, winding gravel drive you are greeted by a bright mix of native perennials that are bustling with beneficial wildlife. It is a joy to watch this planting throughout the year as each species takes its turn in the spotlight with colorful blooms and then fades while another steps in. The broad sweep of ornamental grasses at the back of the bed keep the landscape interesting year-round and soften the edges of the house.
In the image above, a little path branches off from the walk to the front door and leads to a tranquil nook between the house and the screened in porch. At the bottom of the path sits a boulder perfectly shaped to act as a chair. It provides an excellent view of the lake!
Below on the left, you can see how a series of gravel ramps and limestone steps takes you around the edge of the screened porch and down towards the lake with a border of exuberant perennials. The alternating sounds and textures of walking on the different surfaces adds a subtle touch to engage all the senses.
In the center you see a pergola over the lower level of the patio that creates a comfortable semi-enclosed space and extends the architecture of the home into the garden. Outside the frame and to the right is a mix of native plants on the slope to create a transitional space between the garden and the naturalized areas that make up much of the property.
The far left image shows a winding path lined with boxwoods and accented with a Japanese maple. This area lends a bit of a zen feeling to the yard and contributes to the pervading sense of peace. By walking the path, you force yourself to slow down and enjoy the gorgeous views from multiple perspectives. This is one of the few areas of the landscape where we used non-native plants.
The rigid geometry of the limestone fire pit contrasts beautifully with the rough-hewn block that interrupts the curved retaining wall. Even the turf here is native to the U.S. Buffalograss is a low maintenance, drought and cold tolerant turf species that mostly grows in the northern Great Plains. Its rugged character makes it well suited to this site's qualities as well. As you sit around the fire, you can look out on the dock and the lake and watch for the wildlife.
Around the other side of the house a dense planting of grasses provides year-round visual interest and creates a bit of mystery about what might be just around the curve of the dolomite path, as seen in the top left picture below. The grasses are especially gorgeous in late summer when the seed heads are faintly colored and a breeze makes them sway en masse.
Next we follow that dolomite path downhill to the lake. In the top right picture below, a terraced bed of hydrangeas below the lawn transitions down to the naturalized beds of native prairie plants along both sides of the path. By terracing the slope, we were able to provide a flat lawn near the house and maximize the amount of hill suitable for designed plantings.
From the bottom of the hill you can look across the dock and catch a beautiful view of the prairie restoration on the slope along the drive.
A steeper shortcut will take you up the hill back to the house, as you can see in the bottom right picture. The path is punctuated with limestone steps to make the grade easier to climb and to echo the steps along the side of the house. Leaving grass between the steps - rather than adding another gravel path to match the other stairs - helps visually transition from the more heavily designed beds into the natural areas.
Over the course of three years we have fully implemented the master plan and maintained it along the way with help from JFNew on managing the naturalized areas. We continue to be very passionate and proud of this project, and it was a joy to help this family create the getaway of their dreams. In fact, they have come to love it so much that it is now their primary residence rather than a weekend destination. We would love to help you and your family create the garden of your dreams! Call us at 317.251.GROW or fill out an online contact form to get started, and check out our portfolio and other project spotlights for more ideas.