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Rue appears on THIS OLD HOUSE®

It was fun to be a part of the team that has beautifully restored and updated this historic 1720 Ipswich home for modern living! Watch Rue Sherwood and Jenn Nawada meet to discuss the design plan for the yard during Season 44 Episode 18 1720 Cape Anne Gambrel, at

Rue Sherwood Landscape Design participated in the site planning team including the architects (Ben Nutter Architects), engineers (Morin-Cameron Group), a wetland specialist (Mary Rimmer) and the homeowners, and created a landscape design that satisfied both the wishes of the

homeowners and requirements of the Conservation Commission.

Site Planning

Site planning included locating an additional residential structure with a walkout basement for easy access to boat storage, designing a new driveway and parking areas, establishing grades to blend the structures with the landscape, ensure proper drainage, and comfortable slopes.

Rue’s 3D site model design helped the team better understand the site and grading implications of the design.

Landscape Design

Careful restraint was an intentional effort to provide landscaping that meets the needs of the homeowners and complements the character of the antique house and natural setting.

Hardscape materials were selected to look like they have always been there, with subtle plantings that gently soften edges. Native plants work especially well in connecting the house and site to its local context.

At the new front entrance, a brick walkway and reclaimed granite steps wind through a native plant garden. A softly curving fieldstone retaining wall punctuated with substantial boulders elegantly accommodates the change in grade between the house and street. Simple path lights provide direction in the dark.

Minimal landscaping of the front of the original antique gambrel house allows the facade to be fully appreciated from the street. Existing foundation plants were removed. A revitalized brick walkway and new reclaimed granite steps bring attention the original front door, framed by a pair of native Viburnums, and a lovely mature sugar maple tree anchors the corner of house. A non-native competing tree was removed and the sugar maple was roped off and protected during construction.

On the river side, steps lead off a covered porch to a small brick patio at grade suitable for a table and chairs overlooking the river in the shade of the sugar maple. An additional large specimen Red Maple was added to connect the two structures and provide some screening.

An ancient brick cistern exists on the corner of the foundation that the homeowners decided to preserve. To access the basement, a space was designed under the porch that allows the cistern to be highlighted. A stone-faced retaining wall with granite steps and a gravel floor define the space.

Future plans include raised vegetable garden beds and fruit trees in the open space between the buildings.

Irregular bluestone steppers provide access where less formal walkways are appropriate.

Conservation Resource Improvements

The entire site falls under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission and so the landscape design had to meet conditions for their approval.

No new work was allowed between the top of the coastal bank and the river per the Conservation Commission. However, there were significant invasive species in the area beyond the coastal bank, and to help facilitate the project we proposed the removal and revegetation of invasive species outside of the coastal bank. Several large invasive and in decline Norway maples were removed. And, an expanse of area at the upper edge of the coastal bank was inundated with an assortment of invasive plants, such as phragmites, garlic mustard, gout weed, and multiflora rose. After the invasive plants are removed, the area will be replanted as a native wildflower area. A mowed path winding through the area leads to the water’s edge.

Additional site features such as two new underground cisterns to capture and reuse roof runoff and a bioretention area were designed by the project engineer. After completion, the bioretention area will be planted with blueberries.


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