Burton DeMarche, owner of Wilton, Connecticut-based The LaurelRock Company, has been maintaining Meadow Farm, a lush, beautiful sixteen-acre property in upscale Fairfield County, Connecticut for the past seven years. “We originally partnered with Cambridge, Massachusetts Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects on the installation,” explains DeMarche. “Stephen is a fantastic landscape architect who worked with the owner to come up with a beautiful and environmentally conscious design.”
The original homestead was renovated and turned into a home for the owners’ parents. A new main house was completed about five years ago. The owners occupy the main residence, which features a very traditional, classic farmhouse front and more modern interpretation rear with lots of glass, steel siding, and a significantly contemporary feel. “The owners have provided input over the years and we’ve been able to combine their thoughts with the landscape development, resulting in a very livable, family-oriented space with orchards, a vegetable garden, tea garden, a pool, beehives, comfortable sitting areas, and thousands of annuals, perennials, trees, and grasses,” offers DeMarche. “In addition, we have sixteen container plantings on the property that we change out seasonally.”
The front meadow is filled with wildflowers and a crab apple orchard. Under the meadow is a buried geothermal system that provides efficient heat and
air to the home. Several of the planted containers add interest at the entrance to the home. “We change color and plants often for a new look,” saysDeMarche. Much of the land is slanted with rolling meadows. Stimson originally designed a terraced landscape to accommodate that fact, leaving lots of flat areas that became useable space. The owners have significant philanthropic and social gatherings and can accommodate many guests in these level landscaped areas. The terracing and plantings create outdoor “rooms” for people to experience and enjoy. In some of the areas, red maple trees provide barriers, and in other areas, Stimson established architectural stone walls to mark the separation.
The wife is a gardener and loves the work of Piet Oudolf from the Netherlands. Oudolf is a current renowned horticulturalist, landscape architect, author, and teacher, who uses meadow concepts in his designs. LaurelRock has incorporated Oudolf’s style and many of his techniques into the landscape, creating gardens and amazing meadows of wildflowers, perennials, and grasses that continue to change as the seasons change. LaurelRock maintains the gardens and fields by seeding and plugging in new flowers and grasses as needed. There are some natural wetlands on the property that tend to get murky in the spring and fall. “We plant wetland-friendly, native plants and insure that the wetlands continue to exist,” says DeMarche. “However, we do monitor them to keep invasive plants out.”
The family interacts with the landscape in many ways. Behind the main house there’s a walking loop that LaurelRock created by mowing pathways through the meadow. In the space are two pieces of sculpture that can be appreciated by strollers. Between a play lawn for the children that’s near the pool and the original homestead is a lovely tea garden with a peaceful lawn in the center of a gravel path. The tea garden creates an access route from the family home to the grandparents’ home. A wide bed of mature perennials can be seen from the artistic benches, which were selected and purchased by the owners and strategically placed in the garden to offer three distinct views of the landscape.
Near the home is a pool that is enclosed with a fence of modern metal posts and wood railings for a natural touch. The lounging area is a blend of structured patio blocks and natural ground cover. LaurelRock extended the look of the ground cover by adding a sedum roof to the pool house. “No irrigation is needed. The plants survive well in sun and absorb water from the rain,” says DeMarche. “They provide an environmentally sound roof material and a lovely view from the house.”
In the back of the property, in an area that was once a horse paddock, LaurelRock created compost windrows. “We use this rich organic matter for the planting beds and vegetable garden,” explains DeMarche. “It requires some maintenance, like adding to it and turning it over regularly, but it is very convenient to have it right on the property.” In keeping with this natural approach to landscaping, LaurelRock introduced beehives and the owners jar their own honey every year. “We had to move the bees a couple of times to find the right wind currents that would be conducive to healthy and happy hives,” adds DeMarche. The grounds also feature a vegetable garden for the homeowners’ personal use, and an old apple orchard that LaurelRock restored. Once the original orchard was reestablished, they added more apple trees along with several peach and pear trees.
Over the years, LaurelRock has contributed to and created lovely vignettes that are intriguing to the senses. In keeping with the original design, LaurelRock continues to develop this expansive property into a series of smaller settings that each offer a completely different experience all the while being ecologically sound and environmentally positive.