Practical Romance in a Residential Landscape
WRITTEN BY CAROLYN M. RUNYON PHOTOGRAPHY BY SPACECRAFTING
The city of Wayzata, Minnesota is an upscale community of less than 5,000 residents, located in the western part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Pronounced wise-etta, the name was derived from the Sioux phrase meaning “North Shore” because it borders Lake Minnetonka. Its picturesque location has helped the city become a popular destination for tourists and home to families.
1 When the homeowners found this 1920s cottage among the traditional, classic homes in the area, they fell in love with its charm—down to the picket fence. It was smaller than their current newly constructed home, but they knew they could make the traditional lake-house design work for their family of four. They retained the footprint of the original house, updated architectural features, and added a detached two-car garage with a lofted entertaining space. This addition connects to the house by way of a second-story bridge and cleverly hides an outdoor sport court that the owners’ two sons use every day.
Once the home design was completed, the owners contacted Shakopee, Minnesota–based Mom’s Design Build to help with the landscaping. The client wanted to maintain the traditional cottage feel of the home, but the landscape offered several challenges for designer Heather Sweeney. The complex elevation, created by joining the main house and garage, needed to be addressed. Several failing cedars blocked sun in the front yard, making it difficult to grow a sun-loving, English cottage garden. The front entrance was obscured and needed a distinctly visible pathway leading to it. The owner wanted a backyard that required minimal maintenance and included a concealed area where her sons could play lacrosse. Existing fences and unsafe walkways required updating. New gates and enhanced fencing were a must to keep the owners’ dogs safely in the yard.
Sweeney had a bold plan that called for removing the row of cedars and creating an enchanting garden in the now sunny front yard. “I wanted to keep a calm presence in the landscaping,” says Sweeney. “We now have seasonal color with spring flowering bulbs, summer allium, salvia, iris, and then fall hydrangea. The colors are soft—white, purples, a splash of yellow.” All flower beds and window boxes have an automatic irrigation system for worry-free maintenance.
Meandering paths of clay pavers with New York bluestone inserts are bordered by boxwood shrubs along the home’s foundation. Colorful bulbs greet spring, purple allium and white coneflowers introduce summer, and charming hydrangeas appear in the fall.
A new garage, with a second-story entertaining space, is connected to the original home by an enclosed bridge. The renovation resulted in a backyard that allows for a private outdoor sitting/ eating area and a functional play area for the sons to practice lacrosse. Synthetic turf offers a no maintenance surface that holds up to the rigorous sport activities.
1 Sweeney’s overall plan also brings sense to the home’s unusual elevation situation. “We reclaimed the front yard for a peaceful English cottage landscape that softens and embraces the combined structures with their busy elevation angles,” she says. The landscape design emphasizes and brightens the path to the main entry. A classic gated arbor greets guests yet creates privacy. The existing picket fence was straightened up, painted white, and enhanced with post caps. The upgraded fence brought instant order to the landscape. Paver paths lead to the front door and connect different areas of the property. “Clay bricks were reused from existing walkways and we added more where necessary,” explains Sweeney. “The New York bluestone evokes stepping-stones that the owners liked from a UK Instagram scene.” The result was a much safer walkway, and one that could easily be cleared of snow in winter by a snowblower. Sweeney chose angles rather than continuous curves for the paths in a nod to the home’s own complex architecture. In keeping with the cottage style, classic white obelisks, a few boulders, and a low stone fountain accent the landscape. “We used a reclaimed stone trough and drilled a hole in it for a pump. It’s operable by a remote,” she adds. The fountain is discreet and serene . . . just what the owners wanted.
Boxwood hedges line the foundation, but in the backyard, Sweeney opted for synthetic materials. The turf creates the impression of lush grass and stands up to shade and the boys’ active lacrosse practices. A kitchen door leads to a deck that overlooks the backyard. Framed by shrubs and perennials, the deck offers a lovely nook for eating or relaxing.
The owner calls the new, charming front yard her “private oasis” . . . an escape from the backyard where her sons practice lacrosse for hours. “The landscape is simply gorgeous, tranquil,” she says. Sweeney met all the challenges and created a perfect outdoor world of serenity and peacefulness for adults, a practical area for athletic teens, and a safe environment for pets—united by meandering paths and beautiful cottage plantings.