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The Hudson Garden: A Beautiful Solution to a Landscape Problem

August 1, 2014

Hudson garden wide viewRecently, I spent a perfect summer Sunday in July enjoying the annual Brunswick, Maine garden tour with my gardening friend Harriet. The garden tour included a variety of gardens with both inspiring garden designs and inspiring gardening stories. My favorite was the garden of Judi and Jack Hudson.

The Hudson house and garden is only a few years old, but the garden has a mature, established look. The Hudsons built their house on land that was heavily wooded and backed onto a public footpath through local woods. They wanted to open up land at the back of their house for sun and a garden, which meant removing trees, but they also wanted a visual barrier that would give them privacy from the footpath. Many people would have solved this landscaping problem with a privacy fence along the back of the property. The Hudsons designed a much more creative and beautiful solution: a garden built on a berm.

Hudson floral displayThe berm is a large one, running the entire width of the back yard. It is highest at the back, where it borders the footpath, and then slopes down to a gentle curved edge bordering the lawn at the back of the house. The berm is planted as a mixed border, with shrubs, dwarf trees, ornamental grasses, perennials, and some annuals. Shrubs are primarily planted at the back (top) of the berm, providing maximum privacy, with more ornamental grasses and flowering perennials as the garden slopes down toward the lawn. Drip irrigation is buried beneath the mulch for efficient watering.

Hudson water featureAt the center of the garden is a water feature designed as a series of rills running from the top of the berm to the bottom, creating both a beautiful visual effect and a relaxing sound of running water. Note the naturalistic heron sculpture tucked in to the right at the top of the water feature and the very effective use of container plantings at the bottom for added color.

Hudson japanese irisViewed from a distance, the flowering berm has high visual impact. But it also rewards close attention to individual plants. On the day of the tour, this gorgeous Japanese iris was commanding a lot of attention. There were also many beautiful combinations of less exotic plants.

hudson ornamental grassI found the use of ornamental grasses particularly effective and was smitten with this dramatic Miscanthus. The use of trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses in this garden also means that it has year-round interest, even in Maine’s long winter when the flowering perennials are dormant.

The Hudson garden provides an inspiring example of a creative and beautiful solution to a common landscaping problem (privacy). It is a garden that I would love to visit over and over again in different seasons, for both pleasure and inspiration.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. laurao1123@comcast.net permalink
    August 1, 2014 1:23 pm

    Hi, Jean.

    I have been enjoying your posts very much. Congratulations on your retirement. Don and I wanted to send some pics of our yard, which we have extensively developed over the years. By using a great deal of ground cover I have minimized the task of weeding, although I do enjoy it. Hope you like the view! 

    Sincerely, Laura

    • August 4, 2014 9:07 pm

      Laura, how nice to hear from you here. I remember seeing a write-up about your garden in the Attleboro Sunday paper a number of years ago when I was visiting my mother. I’ll contact you privately by email so that you’ll have my email address and can send me some photos of your garden. I look forward to seeing them.

  2. Melanie permalink
    August 1, 2014 1:27 pm

    Your garden descriptions are wonderful to read. Thank you for sharing your love of gardens in a way that others can enjoy.

    • August 4, 2014 9:13 pm

      Melanie, Thank you for that kind comment! I’m sometimes a little nervous about writing garden reviews because I don’t have the expertise about garden design of some other bloggers who review gardens. So instead I try to write about what draws me to a particular garden. It’s nice to know that what draws me also resonates for others.

  3. Nell Jean permalink
    August 1, 2014 1:50 pm

    Beautiful on the front side. I am a fan of berms. You didn’t happen to go out on the foot path and make any photos, did you? Curiosity got the best of me and I had to ask.

    • August 4, 2014 9:16 pm

      Nell Jean, I’m embarrassed to admit that it never occurred to me to walk around to the public footpath at the back of the Hudson property and see what the berm looked like from there. And as soon as you asked the question, it seemed like such an obvious thing to do! Maybe I’ll have to drive back out there and check it out one day. 😉

  4. August 1, 2014 2:19 pm

    What a gorgeous garden. I love the berm and the Japanese Iris is spectacular. I have some Miscanthus, and I’ve divided it and placed around in several places. It is very nice.

    • August 4, 2014 9:17 pm

      Judy, I don’t have any ornamental grasses in my garden because I could never quite figure out how to use them effectively — so seeing how the Hudsons used them in this mixed border was both enlightening and inspiring.

  5. August 1, 2014 5:40 pm

    I’m planning to remove a portion of my front lawn and have been considering using a berm to create a visual break between the remaining front landscape and the new planting beds beyond. I’ve also found that creating even abbreviated berms by hauling in new topsoil helps give new planting beds a running start. Your pictures of the Hudson garden have helped to reinforce my direction. Thanks for sharing your tour, Jean.

    • August 4, 2014 9:19 pm

      Kris, your project sounds both exciting and creative. I never thought of using a berm; but now that I’ve seen just how beautiful and effective a berm garden can be, I’m going to be looking for opportunities.

  6. August 1, 2014 10:00 pm

    Beautiful photos, and your descriptions were very helpful. I like the idea of a berm for privacy and then landscaping it. Thanks for the garden tour!

    • August 4, 2014 9:24 pm

      Sue, I thought this was such a creative and clever landscape design. And I’m clearly not the only one to think so. It turned out that one of the carpenters working on the addition to my house had heard about this garden from his mother-in-law, who worked as a volunteer there on the day of the tour. She described it so enthusiastically that he got excited about it even though he hadn’t actually seen it. As he described it to me, I said, “Wait, I was there!” When he comes back to work on the next phase of my building project, I’m going to see if I can get his email address so that I can send him the link to this post and the photos of the garden.

  7. August 4, 2014 1:32 pm

    Hi Jean. What a beautiful day in a beautiful garden. The berm idea is an excellent one for privacy. I’ve seen it in front yards, but the Hudson’s design for their property is incredible. Thanks for sharing!

    • August 4, 2014 9:26 pm

      Kevin, This was my first introduction to the use of a berm of this type in garden design, and I was smitten. I’m still trying to figure out how to strike up an acquaintance with the Hudsons so that I can go back and visit it again 🙂 !

  8. August 4, 2014 4:49 pm

    Hi Jean, that’s a gorgeous sweeping border. I must admit that I would have gone for the fence and climbers route, perhaps with some trees and large shrubs and the typical herbaceous border rule of taller plants at the back and lower at the front. The berm must have taken some serious earth moving to create one that size. The water feature at its centre is really lovely.

    • August 4, 2014 9:28 pm

      Sunil, I’m glad that you got a sense of the sweep of this border — especially since I could never get more than half of it in a photo. (The top photo shows the left half and the second photo the right half.) I’m sure it took not only serious earth moving, but also serious money to create it.

  9. August 6, 2014 9:17 am

    Jean, you are right! This is a beautifully creative solute to their need for privacy. I love how they incorporated the water feature. The sweeping view is wonderful, but the fact that it stands up to close inspection shows the genius. I wonder what the back side looks like, the view from the path?

    • August 7, 2014 7:18 pm

      Deb, Nell Jean asked the same question, and I was embarrassed to admit that I never thought to walk around to the path and look — an oversight that I might be able to remedy at some point in the future (since this garden is only about 25 miles from my house).

  10. August 7, 2014 6:24 pm

    Jean I am with you and would want to visit in different seasons…that is quite a wonderful water feature too.

    • August 7, 2014 7:19 pm

      Donna, I’m still scouting out possibilities for striking up an acquaintance with the owners of this wonderful garden 🙂 .

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