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Projects: Somerville Duplex

Completed Summer 2006
Total Cost: Under $3,000
Designer: Elizabeth M. Lowe

The Site: Before

Somerville Before Landscaping

I first visited this 2 unit condo in Somerville in April of 2006. The backyard consisted of a roughly 800 square foot lawn enclosed on three sides by fence and on the fourth by the house. While the space was comfortably private, with only a few perennials and one hydrangea, there wasn’t much to mitigate the flat, rectangular look of the space.

The Design

My clients wanted an array of plants that would be visually pleasing and attract birds. In addition, they wanted to remove the areas of lawn that were least successful, replacing them with planted beds and a path. Furthermore, with a small child in the house, I needed to avoid using highly toxic plants.

As I finished each stage of the design, I sent it to the clients for review. The final design for this yard has a very simple structure. We maintained a large area of lawn, but softened its edges by adding planting beds that round the corners and add some extra curves. As well as enhancing its appearance, these curved corners will make the lawn easier to mow. In addition to adding planting beds, we decided to install an irregular fieldstone path in the area where the grass is most worn by foot traffic.

Somerville Design

I chose a mixture of plants with bloom times from spring into autumn in colors that range from white to pink to purple. In particular, we decided on an Apple serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora) for one corner of the yard as it provides the structure of a small tree, bears white flowers in spring, and produces berries that attract birds in June. Another plant we selected was Alpine Columbine (Aquilegia alpina), which has lovely blue blossoms in spring. While visiting a nursery, I’ve seen a humming bird drink nectar from one of these columbines.

The Installation

In order to make this project relatively inexpensive, one of my clients completed much of the labor himself. I worked with the client, instructing him in each step, beginning with sod removal in the areas we turned into planting beds. Next, we laid the stone. After a few hours working together, the client was able to complete the stone work over a week-end. Next we planted the shrubs and perennials, wrapping a soaker hose among them for easy watering. Finally, we covered the bare soil with a layer of mulch to help suppress weeds, retain moisture, and to provide additional organic matter as it breaks down.

The Results: Before and After Views

From the Driveway Gate

View From Gate: Before View From Gate: After

View of Serviceberry: After

The Original Perennial Bed

Small Existing Perennial Bed: Before Small Existing Perennial Bed: After

In Front of Steps to Unit 2

(as seen from Unit 1 Deck)

View From Unit 1 Deck: Before View From Unit 1 Deck: After


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