About the House Exteriors

Beatrix Farrand chose plantings for the exterior of the house that complemented the scale and detail of the pre-existing house, and integrated it with the newly designed gardens. She paid particularly close attention to the size and spread of the plants she chose, watching carefully so that greenery never overwhelmed or obscured important details of the building. These calculations took into account not only the height of shrubs and bushes, but also the size and color of their foliage. In the Plant Book, she said that “evergreens of dark bluish green shades are suggested rather than those of yellow or brownish greens.” Magnolia and rhododendron should be avoided because their large leaves would look “coarse and clumsy” (3).

The plants she chose, which included hemlock, ivy, and boxwood, were strategically placed to mask unwanted features of the house like the basement windows. Other plantings enhanced existing lines, colors, and design elements of the building. On the entrance steps, Farrand recommended a carefully balanced amount of clinging vine to help age and soften the balustrade. Along the walls of the house, she suggested that climbing ivy cover no more than one third of the brick. The integration of greenery with the hardscape of the house helped to soften the mansion’s façade and gave it a place in the surrounding landscape.