Old-World Garden

Landscape architect Paul Fields used formal terraces and layered hedges to create a radiant and romantic setting for an established Mediterranean-style home in Dallas

A lead urn lends an air of antiquity to the garden. Fields prefers white flowers with splashes of color, such as the white periwinkle mixed with pink geraniums.

Sometimes the tale of a special garden becomes inextricably entwined with the evolution of a wonderful house. At least that’s what happened when Nancy and Jeremy Halbreich bought their house on a busy Dallas street.

“We were looking for something old, and this house spoke to us immediately,” says Nancy, who recalls first seeing the house at night. “I remember it was pitch black, and Jeremy and I sort of sneaked into the gates to peek at it.”

Daylight revealed a romantic Mediterranean-style structure. Nancy says it was a eureka moment for them. “The house was 65 years old and in complete harmony with Jeremy’s California roots,” says Nancy. “It felt like an old friend, and soon after buying it, we began the tweaking that eventually evolved into a total makeover.”

Early in the remodeling phase, Nancy had an idea that would completely change the personality of the house, as well as the land upon which it is sited. “I decided we should reorient the house by creating a new entrance on the quiet side of the building to replace the original street-side front door,” she says. With the house reconfigured, the landscape of the one-acre property was destined to become a great garden.

Enter Dallas landscape architect Paul Fields of Lambert Landscape Company. “It was apparent to me that the homeowners’ tastes had to be reflected in their garden,” says Fields. “My ambition was to create something that would connote the old-world look they longed for.”

Fields — who says he thinks three-dimensionally — usually has a vision for a garden within an hour of visiting a site. After his initial encounter with the Halbreichs’ house, he imagined a series of formal outdoor rooms that would extend the scope of the house with many levels of lushly layered terracing, which he describes as “green architecture.”

The scheme evolves gently and underscores the sense of symmetry and asymmetry, openness and containment. The overall design features several lawn panels defined by structured hedge borders that appear in the distance like perfectly etched slabs of green. Within each tableau, there is a rhythmic repetition that compels visitors to carefully explore subtle nuances of texture, fragrance, and color. Geometric stone patterning, relieved by areas of gravel, and antique ornaments and planters add a sense of permanence and age.

Fields softened the exterior of the house with a mixture of crossvine, English ivy, and Boston ivy. “Boston ivy grows faster than the others,” he says, “so we were able to achieve that green look and sense of age within the first year.” As a bonus, the three plants create seasonal interest throughout the year.

Since timelessness is not created with timid foundation plantings, Fields and the homeowners decided to use important mature plants, such as the enormous ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood globes that intersect the balustrade, the columnar ‘Natchez’ crepe myrtles that separate the pool garden from the other spaces, and the preexistent huge live oak that shields the pool house from the motor court. Additionally, Fields layered most of the hedges to create textural depth, and he also limited the introduction of flowers to container planting.

“Most people are satisfied with a little bit of foundation planting all around a house,” says Fields. “In contrast, this plan imbues the scene with a greater sense of scale and importance. I also think that the use of select colored flowers in antique containers creates a more residential feel than an overpowering mass-planting of color that seems out of scale and corporate. In our climate, green is more soothing, and besides, this is about the bones of the garden, not seasonal splashes of color.”

Even without lots of color — Fields favors mostly white flowers because they look wonderful at night — the garden is both radiant and inviting year-round. Besides providing a drop-dead backdrop for parties and charity events, it is also serene outdoor space where the couple enjoys strolling, relaxing, and reading by the pool.

“In all my projects, I like to step back and look at the house and garden together,” says Fields. “I feel a real sense of accomplishment if they look as if they grew up and evolved together. In this instance, there is complete and utter harmony.”

RESOURCES: Landscape architecture by Paul Fields, Lambert Landscape Co., 214/350-8350, http://www.lamberts.net; architecture by Overton Shelmire, Beran & Shelmire Architects, 214/522-7980.

Brought to you by Lawn Patio Barn.com.

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