By Rebecca Eddins, Project Manager | @CurateReynolda
As we near the end of the construction phase of Reynolda’s Landscape Restoration Project there is a great deal to celebrate! Simply put, the remarkable transformation of the landscape can only be fully appreciated when you compare what it looked like before to what it looks like now. So, for the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed going through our stash of photos from before the construction phase began, and looking at those same views today.
Here’s a great example of a photo from the early stages of construction of the slate paving restoration, a major element of the project. The photo below clearly shows how stone pieces were moved to the side, and then after they reinforced the base, they returned all to their original location, as much as was possible. It was similar to taking apart a puzzle and then putting it back together! The second photo was taken four months later from almost the exact same location.
Forecourt Garden during construction with Knockout Roses in the center, January 2015
Forecourt Garden during construction, March 2016
Digging a little deeper into how some of the decisions for the new plan came about is interesting. Our goal was to use what we know about the past to inform our decisions - even if that meant deviating slightly from the original 1937 Sears plan.
For example, dwarf boxwoods are a critical design feature in the 1937 plan for the Forecourt Garden. However, the decision to use miniature boxwoods in the new plan was actually more difficult than you would imagine. The original boxwoods, English Dwarf Boxwoods (Buxus semperviorens Suffruticosa), are long gone and through the years this variety, or an equivalent, had been planted in the Forecourt Garden several times without success. Sometimes the culprit seemed to be mischievous voles, other times the problem appeared to be disease. Whatever the cause, after at least three tries and a great deal of money, using boxwoods again seemed like a bad idea. Perhaps a variety of holly that, from afar, look very similar to boxwood? Or maybe go with something completely different as a defining border and not even try to simulate boxwoods? Much discussion took place on this topic. Once the final decision was made work began as evidenced in the photos below.
Sprigg Parker planting boxwoods, February 2016
Forecourt Garden, March 2016
The decision to use a certain boxwood came from an unusual circumstance. Sprigg Parker, of Larmore Landscape Associates, Inc., found out that what was specified in the plan drawn up by Dale Jaeger, our landscape architect, was not available. (Dale had chosen a variety similar to Sears but one that was intended to have a better chance at thriving.) Sprigg contacted her supplier, Saunders Brothers in Virginia. They suggested a suitable replacement was Justin Brouwers Boxwood, also known as Korean Dwarf Boxwood, (Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Justin Brouwers’). This replacement is a hearty variety that can withstand both sun and shade and is more resistant to many common pests and diseases. It was, however, a slightly different color green and also a different proportion. Sprigg had used this variety in Winston-Salem with success for a number of years. The supplier also commented that Justin Brouwers Boxwood is the variety that George Washington’s Mount Vernon decided on several years ago when they did a restoration on their Parterre Garden, photographed below. Reports from Mt. Vernon are that they are thriving! Below are two photos of this variety at Mt. Vernon.
Parterre Garden, Mt. Vernon, 2015
Parterre Garden, Mt. Vernon, 2006
Sprigg consulted with Dale, as well as Reynolda Gardens Manager, Preston Stockton. All agreed this was a good alternative and talked with Reynolda House staff prior to placing the order. Justin Brouwers Boxwood proved to be a great choice for many reasons. This variety is a bit larger than the one specified and allowed us to purchase fewer – a welcome surprise midway through an ever tightening project budget. Although we had to deviate from the original 1930s variety, we were able to reproduce the original form and character of the design.
We hope that these recently planted boxwoods thrive in their new home as we continue on with the final few weeks of completing this exciting project at Reynolda.
Forecourt Garden, March 2016