When you’re building a new house on a wooded hilltop—a house whose design prioritizes views of the outdoors—the landscape is a crucial piece of the puzzle. From within Ron Harris’ Fluvanna County house, the woodsy surroundings are a constant presence, especially through the south wall, which is made almost entirely of glass.
Finished in 2007, the house construction resulted in the clearing of the hilltop, leaving a barren swath of ground around the new home. Harris wanted to install a landscape right away, and hired designer Joan Albiston to help realize his vision of a lovely transition between the house and its setting.
“I said to Joan, ‘I want gardens, but I want them to feel rustic and natural, so that the house sits in a natural garden in the woods,’” says Harris.
One key to making this happen was the installation of a deer fence, enclosing about three acres around the house. It’s set far enough back in the woods that it becomes invisible, but it allows the planting of many species that would otherwise suffer damage.
Albiston also designed simple hardscaping to create definition in key areas. On the east side of the house, for example, a slope is subtly terraced via the two bluestone walls that cut across its width. “Joan designed the retaining walls so that it looks like we meant it,” says Harris—avoiding, in other words, the harsh appearance of a steep, unbroken slope.
The walls have a utilitarian function too, optimizing drainage. Plantings in this area focus on perennials that shine in springtime.