Garden Getaway

Landscape architect Reed Dillon transformed a barren Lawrence backyard into a verdant oasis

Tucked in a quiet street, nestled in the rolling hills of a golf course, is a gracious home surrounded by a lovely garden. It’s difficult to believe that this bucolic spot was ever a source of consternation.

“It was the worst case of buyers’ remorse ever. We were in a great house on a double lot, but once we moved in we realized that we couldn’t go outside. It was hot and loud and uninviting,” remembers Teresa Hanna of the backyard of her Lawrence home. “I started to panic, then I called Reed.”

Hanna and landscape architect Reed Dillon have been friends for 20 years.

“We were neighbors back then,” remembers Hanna. “One day I was planting flowers, and I was in way over my head. Reed pulled up and asked, ‘Need some help?’ I didn’t know what he did and thought, ‘How can he help?’” The two have been working together ever since.

When Dillon arrived at Hanna’s new home, he immediately diagnosed the situation. The yard, while generous, was completely covered in Kool Deck, a textured surface designed for pool surrounds.

“There was no shade, no privacy, no green space,” says Dillon. “There was really no place to be.”

The first step was to remove the existing pool and create a lawn that extends outside from the living area of the house.

“That way, when you look out from inside, what you’re looking at is green,” Dillon says.

Besides offering a lovely view, this patch of grass plays host to croquet for family and friends, as well as soccer and general horsing around for the Hanna children.

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“We hosted one of our friend’s children’s birthday parties here and hung a piñata from the big tree. We’re thrilled that we use every bit of this space,” says Hanna.

At the same time, Dillon began planning the new pool. The entire deck was created with Buckskin flagstone, the warm, neutral color of which complements the house and the setting. “We wanted to stay away from stone in a rectangular shape,” Hanna says. “We wanted it to be more informal.”

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To ensure that Hanna did not end up with another expanse of pool deck, Dillon planned raised beds along the perimeter of the backyard.

“It’s an eight-foot height change from the yard to the golf course. We decided to use these big blocks of stone and soften them with the plantings. As the boxwoods and the Knockout roses fill in you can see it soften,” Dillon says. For privacy, he planted a row of yews along one edge of the golf course and a hedge at the other end. “Our goals were a lot of evergreen structure and a lot of color.”

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Hanna enjoys entertaining, and part of planning the garden was making sure she had the space to do this. The pergola, which shelters a large dining table and chairs, was the next phase of the project and divides the pool and green space, providing additional structure. Not wanting this element to seem too heavy, Hanna and Dillon decided against a solid roof.

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“But we didn’t really want to use plantings, like vines, because of the mess and the birds,” says Dillon.

He suggested an aluminum cover with a patina that looks like copper, which is cut out with a custom design.

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“It’s great, “ says Hanna. “It’s mostly shady, but some light gets through, and the patterns of the shadows are terrific.”

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One of Hanna’s favorite parts of the project is the new outdoor living room. This covered space provides a perfect view of the pool. A stone fireplace takes the chill off cooler evenings, allowing friends and family to relax in the cushioned wicker sofa and cozy armchairs. The area reads much more “room” than “porch.”

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“My decorator, Pat Lillis, helped me find the furnishings—out here and in the house. Sometimes she brings things to me, and sometimes we shop together,” Hanna says. The antique mirror and French baking table were two such finds. The antique gate the color of a Granny Smith apple belonged to her in-laws.

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“If it’s ever missing, she’ll know where to look,” says Dillon.

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The days of buyers’ remorse are long gone.

“I’m happier out here,” says Hanna. “It’s like the world doesn’t exist. We come out here and everything slows down. We’re so lucky to be in the middle of the golf course. There aren’t streetlights, and at night it’s so quiet. We can see stars like you do out in the country.”

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