Mostly hidden behind a tall mixed-evergreens hedge, the home of Beth and John Hallett is a master of conversion. Its Arts and Craft style, the result of a renovation, is carried into the garden, the province of a professional gardener who has her own ideas about gardens — they should be natural, low-maintenance and full of trees.
Beth has her fill of flowers maintaining the garden at Harry and David's in Medford. She leaves the roses at work, and fills her own garden with evergreens and perennials.
A fence makes good neighbors, but it also creates an enclosure. Like any wall constructed in a
garden, it can add dimension and interest. Designed properly, it can also create privacy and intimacy.
Most walls are constructed with one material: wood, brick, concrete or stone. Following basic rules to create harmony, you can mix materials. The more complicated and irregular your design, the more likely you'll need professional help to make sure it's structurally sound.
Any wall needs a proper footing and drainage, usually about 6 inches. If you live where the ground freezes, you need to go down below frost level and install drain rock and sand before you start building. Again, this may be the province of professionals.
Enclosures create a different experience of space. You can create intimacy but also the illusion of greater space. An example of this is using walls to enhance "borrowed" views, which take the eye beyond your personal garden.
Beth and John Hallett built a brick wall incorporating large oblong river rocks, so the courses of brick flow with the rock shapes, instead of the normal straight courses. Depending on complexity, you may need a brick cutter, or have we mentioned expert help?
"I love trees," says Beth. Her property is full of them, none more imposing than the 100-year-old oak in the small backyard. It's "properly arbored," so its curving limbs are free from mistletoe, a chore that's performed about every other year. The graceful oak is carefully monitored because it's underplanted with ornamentals and receives more water than is recommended for it species.
The yard includes a couple of young redwoods, about 40 feet tall, which Beth planted when they were only 4 feet tall. "Plant them young, they have a better chance of making it in our climate," she advises.
The tree is the showpiece of a courtyard garden, visible from the dining room and through the French doors of the master bedroom. The cozy feel is the result of planting done to maintain privacy as their neighborhood became more crowded. Wooden fences and tall evergreen borders frame the small gardens. A flagstone path of rust and gold stone is interplanted with thyme, mosses and baby's tears. Of the latter, she says, "I love them. I let them take over."
An island bed is planted with year-round interest: a deciduous magnolia shrub for spring, a vine-maple with its spectacular fall color and annuals, including 'Profusion' zinnias. The smaller vine maple was also chosen for its size. Sited in front of the oak, "It's the right scale," she says.
Other trees include ninebark, maple, aspen, Leyland cypress and linden. She has red-twig dogwood, mandatory for its brightly colored twigs.
Besides being a self-described "total tree person" who's served a term on Medford's tree commission, Beth loves unusual plants. "I scour nurseries for something different that will grow on its own," she says. "When I see it, boy, I'm a happy person. I love textures. I like evergreens and perennials." She also loves "anything hydrangea" and her collection includes an oakleaf and a burgundy-colored one.
The flagstone path leads to a 1,000-foot addition behind the house. His and hers offices can double as a guesthouse. It's connected to the home by a breezeway, which includes a planting bed under the roof. "It's a difficult spot," admits Beth. Ferns and a Japanese anemone are among the plants that have found a home there. The roof has a glassless skylight, which permits airflow and rainfall for the planting bed.
To the east of the addition is a patio, which the Hallets use for summer meals. A unique deep brick wall separates it from the garden. It's built with river rocks, some quite large, interspersed at various heights among the charcoal bricks. The composite creates a curving, organic shape. "I love that it's not straight," declares Beth. The unusual design was created by the Halletts and executed by mason Steve Felby.
The Hallets wanted their hardscapes to match the garden's organic lines. "We didn't want it to be 'perfect.' I love that fact. We wanted something different," Beth says.
The Hallets appreciate natural stone, and incorporate it in unusual ways. Much of the stone in their garden was collected in California, near Nevada City where John grew up. A few large boulders are built in to the concrete patios around the home. The adjacent poured concrete is tinted and scored, with rounded edges that maintain the natural style. "I want the focus on the natural stone," says Beth, "so we quieted the concrete."
John did the rockwork in the landscape and the couple even built a woodshed together. "It was fun," says Beth. "He's a great teacher."
This cozy and unique space is a reflection of what they love — Arts and Crafts style and nature — and it's resulted in year-round, quiet beauty . . . hidden behind the hedges.