On a leafy avenue in Baltimore County, just a stone’s throw from the city line and Charles Street’s hustle and bustle, lays a quiet, verdant stretch. In this serene patch where sun and shade mix perfectly, roses thrive, peonies flourish, evergreens sway in the breeze and birds flit from hither to yon. A thick, velvety carpet of the greenest grass is at the center of it all, welcoming visitors to kick off their sandals, take a stroll, and delight in the feeling of cool, lush grass between the toes.
Landscape architect Jonna Lazarus takes such a stroll through the garden (though perhaps not sans shoes) every spring, summer and fall, plotting the seasons’ landscaping plans with its owner. “It’s a work in progress,” says Lazarus, who’s worked in the garden since1993, three years after its owners purchased the 2.25-acre property.
Early on, Lazarus set out to define the garden’s borders, creating attractive views from the owners’ large, Normandy-style stone house. This was a challenge, since the property is sloped, with the garden and woods behind it lying lower than the front lawn. A terrace across the back of the main level offers a bird’s-eye view of the garden, and Lazarus used it to her design advantage.
“One of the first things we did was to renovate a very formal but overgrown, complicated perennial garden,” says Lazarus. The garden, which was once divided into quadrants with walkways between, was replaced with a carpet of grass and a stone fountain. A stone wall was built across the width of the property, dividing the lawn from the woods below. Some dozen deep pink and white peony shrubs, each 50 to 60 years old, were salvaged from the existing garden and used to line the wall. The dwarf lotus-filled fountain at its center, the garden stretches out with roses trellised on iron obelisks, and plantings of iris, sedum, lavender, delicate white-blooming deutzia, and grasses.
Farther down the slope is an impressive line of evergreens. “The woods are the backdrop for the garden; the perennial garden is the backdrop for the house,” says azarus, who also installed stone stairs behind the fountain that lead from an iron gate into a woodland garden.
The owners have enclosed the terrace into a conservatory from which the garden can be viewed year-round. Stairs lead down from either side to a new ground-floor terrace, which offers seating overlooking the garden. “Now we can really live in the garden through the seasons,” says the owner, who often walks down to gather cut flowers for her arrangements.
The owners— an investment executive and his community volunteer wife— entertain outdoors often, and in 2000 hosted a friend’s wedding on the property. “The garden was the centerpiece of the wedding,” says the wife. “The bride and groom were married under a floral archway in front of the fountain, with guests in chairs on the lawn. Then the chairs were removed and we had dinner and dancing on the terrace.”
On the afternoon of the friend’s wedding, a bronze garden sculpture, the work of the owner’s sister-in-law, was adorned with a tulle veil and a bouquet of flowers. She welcomed the guests to the garden, and bade them farewell at evening’s end. Surely some of those guests, after treating themselves to one last walk through the garden, waved her goodbye with their dancing shoes in hand.