Period Perfect. Historic Landmark Garden Renovation

Not everyone would see the hidden beauty in the Yonkers property destined for the wrecking ball in 2000. But one family took the serious fixer-upper under their wing. Crumbling walls, overgrown maples (indeed, saplings were busting through the brick walls), and deer living in the basement was the state of affairs when Westover Landscape Design initially arrived on the scene. A year of intensive, meticulous, thoughtful renovation by the homeowner followed while the house was brought up to speed. When the last construction machine finally rumbled out, that’s when Robert Welsch and his crew began their odyssey.

The goal was to honor the newly restored relic and deliver it into the future with fitting surroundings. “We wanted to bring that treasure back to life,” Robert Welsch explains. Working closely with the homeowner as well as the city of Yonkers to guide the restoration, their first feat was to install a proper drainage system with catchments capable of keeping storm water from the massive roof flowing away. Before anything was visible on the surface, extensive work was accomplished underground. Meanwhile, a plan was drafted to honor the era of the house. Westover chose bluestone as the primary path material for its easy maintenance and simplicity when laying the swank configuration of pathways around the house and outward to an entertaining pavilion. By cleverly hemming the bluestone with period brick that echoes the building material for the house for continuity, the result is a smart and sophisticated finish to a promenade that constantly draws the family and their pets outdoors. Brick was also used to rebuild the walled gardens for the much-needed privacy in a close-knit Yonkers community. And a graceful wrought iron gate enhances the arrival experience. But walls and gates were not the only element to screen and reveal views—plant selection was critical.

Few landscapers would go the extra mile to find period perfect plants for a 19th Century restoration, but Robert Welsch saw the importance of authenticity in creating the mood. He repeated large trees—such as an exquisite London plane tree in the front yard—to balance the expression in the back. Recognizing the need for immediate stature, he selected a weeping willow to gain instant volume, giving the landscape a sense of deep roots. A weeping Camperdown elm adds sophisticated drama to the walled stroll gardens. Hydrangeas were incorporated for their billowy stature, easy maintenance, and long blooming season. Similarly, all the plants in residence play their part in the display that goes beyond the usual spring fling to extend throughout the growing season—offering visual interest even when they are not performing. From spring bulbs to autumn perennials, there is never a dull moment. Meanwhile, every step along the way was a collaboration working hand-in-hand with the homeowner and the city to make certain that the historic landmark status of the property was upheld and honored.

The result goes beyond a landscape that is just old faithful. It adds life to the picture, creating a jewel-like setting for the newly proud house. In a word, it is sublime. By planting wisely and using sustainable elements, the restored house and its surroundings are ready for the next generation and beyond. This Yonkers gem remains meticulously groomed under the watchful eye and skill of Westover Landscape Design’s team of gardeners—It’s a keeper.