Room to Grow

A West Dennis couple creates a haven overlooking the Bass River.

By Jessica Laniewski | Photography by Amber Jane Barricman

For some people, retirement means perfecting their golf score or traveling the world, but one couple opted to put their time into cultivating the beautiful lush yard at their fingertips. They had owned a summer home on the Bass River in West Dennis for years. In 2000 they bought their current house a little further up the river because it offered better boating opportunities. When they purchased the home, the extensive backyard (the whole plot is more than two acres) consisted of little more than grass.

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Irish and Scottish moss was added between the pavers surrounding the raised water garden.

The husband retired in 2004 and they moved into the home full time and began to focus on their “new” home much more. They had met Matt Ernst, owner of Mike Stacy Landscaping, while working on their first home and, when the time came to rethink their spacious yard, the decision to continue to collaborate with him came easily. After carefully drawing out a plan of what they were seeking, Ernst helped them fill in the details.

Creating a vision; executing the plan

They wanted to preserve and frame their beautiful view of the Bass River, and celebrate nature while giving them a backyard to host family as well as enjoy more private downtime. The result was a beautiful labyrinth of gardens, low white fences, and pathways that lead from the house to the hardscaping and down to the river.

“We started by renovating the foundation plantings and installed a rear S&H paver patio with a lilac bluestone stepping stone walkway with Irish and Scottish moss between the stones,” says Ernst, adding “The walkway surrounds a raised water garden made of Corinthian granite and capped with tumbled lilac bluestone.”

What could have been an obstacle was turned into a showpiece: “there is a boulder that we had drilled out so we could have water flow out of the top of the rock and flow back into the pond,” explains Ernst.

The overall surrounding space also received some major TLC. “The whole area is full of perennials and small shrubs. The area is surrounded with a hand-turned white post and rail fence from Walpole Woodworkers,” says Ernst. The fence creates the feeling of “rooms” outside, allowing the backyard to feel simultaneously spacious and intimate.

Plantings that pop

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A spacious deck at river’s edge offers the perfect place to watch sunsets and relax with a drink.

The homeowners had complete trust in Ernst and had him pick out the plantings. For perennials there is a varied selection, including: irises, Japanese painted ferns, sweet woodruff, ginger, black-eyed Susans, black mondo grass, and Asiatic lilies. Ernst chose the Japanese spirea cultivar ‘Little Princess,’ pink and yellow carpet roses, Japanese maples, dwarf blue spruce, hydrangeas, Snow Fountains® weeping cherry, and barberry for the shrubbery. The existing trees were important to the homeowners, who love the basswoods in the front yard, the hinokis and the tall linden on the side, and especially the box elder that hangs over the pond, so these were pruned extensively. Ernst also added leyland cypress, kousa dogwood ‘Satomi’, black berry bushes, and weeping blue atlas cedar. While they focused on the backyard because it allowed for a heightened sense of privacy and entertainment, they also planted large, mature tree and bushes and installed a fence in the front yard to create a cohesive space around the entire home.

An ongoing project

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A waterfall created with boulders cascades into one end of the pool.

The homeowners slowly started to add to their expansive backyard, and installed a raised hot tub situated on a mahogany deck, veneered with Pennsylvania fieldstone and capped with bluestone. Three years ago, the homeowner’s wife pointed out that their grandchildren were getting older (they have seven; the oldest is ten years old) and they needed something to do when they came to visit. While the river is just steps away, a pool seemed like the best option for the entire family.

“I really struggled with the pool because I didn’t want the fence around it to block the view,” says the homeowner. “But it doesn’t and our grandchildren love it.” The kidney-shaped Pebble Tec pool with a tile border is surrounded by an irregular flagging deck and sits just beyond the hot tub. There is also a natural looking waterfall made up of huge boulders that spills into the pool. Ernst and his team did all the plantings and site work around the pool area. The best part is that there is still a huge expanse of lawn that leads down to the deep-water dock. The homeowners use this space to spend time with family, and play bocce or whiffle ball with their young grandchildren.

“We like the sound of water, so the fish pond is nice to listen to at night,” says the homeowner. “In the evening we like to sit out on the back deck and watch the sun set. We call it our meeting time, and sometimes we have a cocktail or tea down there.”

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