Taming the Terrain

Landscape designer Mary LeBlanc transforms a wedge-shaped lot overgrown by brush and trees into a trio of inviting outdoor spaces.

By Rob Duca | Photography by Christian Scully

When Tom and Michelle King purchased their Osterville home three years ago, the front yard was obscured by a cover of cedar trees and mammoth, overgrown rhododendrons. The side of the property was densely wooded with poison ivy and brush. At the back of the property was an unsightly kidney-shaped vinyl swimming pool with little area available for entertaining. “It was just a very overgrown, nondescript property,” Michelle says.


Today, the landscape has been completely redesigned into an eye-catching outdoor space that causes passersby to stop and marvel. “The property was closed in, but now it has been opened up so that every inch is utilized. It has been totally transformed,” Michelle says.

Previously, three cedar trees and 40 rhododendrons made it impossible to even see the house from the street. But now a perennial garden of peonies and hydrangeas shares space with Sunset roses that lean gently against a white picket fence. That formerly unusable wooded area to the side of the house features an emerald green lawn leading to fern-covered footpaths that end at a peaceful seating area. And the backyard is now ideal for entertaining, with a lap pool, a spa, dining area and two fire pits.

The Kings turned to Mary LeBlanc, of Mary LeBlanc Landscape Design, in Cotuit, to reshape the property. Schumacher Landscape Construction, of West Bridgewater, provided the landscaping while Viola Associates, of Hyannis, installed the swimming pool and hot tub. Atlantic View Lighting, of Marshfield, designed and installed the outdoor lighting.

LeBlanc’s first challenge was to open up the view at the front of the house. After initially removing only a handful of the rhododendrons, the decision was made to take out all the cedar trees and rhododendrons. “It became clear we had to start over,” LeBlanc says. “Once we did it, it was like a breath of fresh air. It presented all kinds of opportunities.”

With that, the new space offered a peek at the ocean past a neighbor’s yard across the street. In order to preserve some privacy, a four-foot-high white picket fence was installed at the front of the house, and a perennial garden was planted in the center of the circular driveway, providing a colorful, welcoming entrance to the property. In an ode to Michelle’s Southern heritage, LeBlanc also planted a large Magnolia tree.



The rhododendrons were replanted in what became the woodland garden. “Michelle wanted me to find a use for her antique French faux bois furniture, so I envisioned a path system through the woods leading to a seating area,” LeBlanc says. “We then repurposed brick that we had removed from the front walkway and used it with pea stone to create a circular patio.”

Two winding footpaths framed by ferns and perennials stretch 150 feet into the woods. Soft overhead lighting that shines down from the trees makes the area usable night and day. The space has become the favorite spot for the homeowners to enjoy a cup of morning coffee or an evening glass of wine. Beyond the woodland garden sitting area hangs a cypress swing that was a gift from Michelle’s mother. It is attached to a custom frame made of locust. “This has really become our oasis in the woods,” Michelle says. “It’s totally isolated and really lovely, especially at night with the light coming down from the trees.”


The lap pool was the final step in the metamorphosis. But it presented challenges due to the narrow wedge-shaped lot. The homeowners wanted the pool to serve as the centerpiece for a spacious patio and entertainment area. With that in mind, LeBlanc designed a pool with a nine-foot-wide lap lane and an expansive shallow end with entrance steps where people could gather. The inside of the pool features a stone veneer that acts as a retaining wall. “We entertain a lot and now there are various places for people to sit and get away,” Michelle says.

The homeowners are thrilled with their new outdoor landscape. “I never imagined it could be this beautiful,” Michelle says. “Mary saw what I couldn’t. The property now has street appeal, and it has really expanded our usable space.”

What was previously an unappealing landscape has been transformed into a space to entertain guests or to sneak off to for tranquil moments of quiet solitude.

“We were able to create three distinct spaces and experiences on the site,” LeBlanc says. “There is the great garden at the front of the house, the lap pool with a large enough patio to entertain at the back and the woodland garden on the side. So we were able to maximize use of the entire property and give the homeowner three very different areas to enjoy.”MaryLeBlanc_MG_3154-Edit

Comments are closed.