Step by Step
When landscape architect Kris Horiuchi, principal of Horiuchi Solien Landscape Architects in Falmouth and Edgartown, first visited her client’s Martha’s Vineyard property five years ago, she realized that this was no ordinary lot. Sloping from a hilltop entrance down 30 feet to the beach, the lot overlooks the bustling harbor of Vineyard Haven. Horiuchi immediately saw endless possibility.
WHEN LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT KRIS HORIUCHI, PRINCIPAL OF HORIUCHI SOLIEN Landscape Architects in Falmouth and Edgartown, first visited her client’s Martha’s Vineyard property five years ago, she realized that this was no ordinary lot. Sloping from a hilltop entrance down 30 feet to the beach, the lot overlooks the bustling harbor of Vineyard Haven. Horiuchi immediately saw endless possibility.
“One of the great opportunities of this site was its multiple vantage points of the harbor,” says Horiuchi. “Whereas flat sites only have one main view, this one has multiple tiers that all have great water views.”
So that the homeowners could spend time in the entire outdoor space enjoying the view and entertaining, Horiuchi created an uninterrupted landscape that descends gracefully through a series of staircases and terraces blended with nature—from flowers and trees to shrubs and ornamental grasses.
“It’s an extraordinary property that takes you on a wonderful journey, from the charming backstreets of the village down to the pristine, sandy beach at the water’s edge,” she says. “It’s intimately connected to the harbor front and for the owners, avid sailors involved in restoring vintage boats, it doesn’t get any better than being on the harbor for them.”
From the Top
STARTING AT THE DRIVEWAY’S HILLTOP entry, the first tier is an unassuming upper parking area and garage tucked under 25-foot red maple and London plane trees. From there, the lot takes a dramatic turn as it dives down behind the garage, exposing the first harbor views. It continues descending steeply down: On the left of the garage, a driveway is lined with daylilies, and on the right is the first of three sets of aged granite stairs, which lead down past a guest house. Nearby, a stone-lined shade garden brims with Lady fern, ‘Happy Returns’ daylily, ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea and summersweet, and softens the pathway to a lower parking deck (having enough parking for guests was important to the homeowners). From this lower deck, a grand staircase leads visitors to the main house through a cascade of summer-blooming hydrangea and roses.
“Stone creates framework for outdoor spaces,” says Horiuchi. “It also ties into the stonework on the house, connecting and grounding the landscape to the house.” Horiuchi used the same aged fieldstone that was used in the house’s foundation, working with the project’s architect, New York-based Michael P. Barclay, to create a seamless connection between the house and the landscape.
Port of Call
JUST PAST THE MAIN HOUSE, THERE’S AN oyster-roasting pit that’s a New England twist on the home¬owners’ southern family traditions. Created by landscape contracting company R. P. Marzilli & Co. in Medway, the pit is a well-known entertaining centerpiece around the harbor, with guests communing annually over roasted oysters. Salvaged from the previous owners’ extensive rose garden, several ‘Queen Elizabeth’ rose bushes are blended in with a new rose garden that brims with ‘Bonica’ and ‘New Dawn’ roses, among others.
An expansive view of the harbor welcomes visitors onto a bluestone dining terrace next to the main garden, which is situated conveniently beside an outdoor kitchen, as well as an entrance leading to the kitchen inside. This sun-drenched space flourishes with fragrant, chef-inspiring herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary, as well as lavender, Russian sage, echinacea, ‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangea, ‘Flower Carpet Appleblossom’ roses, lamb’s ears and Verbena bonariensis.
This lush garden “softens the edge of the stone paving,” says Horiuchi, who also worked with Rebecca Potter (who tends the gardens year-round). “It was a convenient place to tuck in a few herbs for use in both the indoor kitchen and outdoor grill area.”
A stone wall and privet hedge separate the dining area from a lower spa garden, where the homeowners and their guests get unobstructed harbor views from a custom in-ground Gunite spa that is lined with natural stone and rests beneath a native maple tree.
Horiuchi respected the natural demands of an oceanfront property. “The harsh winds and salt spray on oceanfront sites pose enormous challenges for our gardens,” she says. “We chose hardy plants such as native rugosa rose, beach plum and bayberry, as well as quintessential Vineyard plants that bloom effortlessly from June to October, such as hydrangea and roses.” The property was originally almost all scrub brush and weeds, and the home¬owners wanted it to burst with native growth so Horiuchi planted Oakleaf hydrangea and red maples. She overcame the limitations created by the lot’s length by opting for hidden storage of everyday conveniences such as air conditioners and generators, which are now discreetly tucked into the hillside behind stone vaults draped with Wintercreeper and Boston ivy.
FROM THE MAIN LAWN FACING THE HARBOR, the property gently unfolds down a walkway that passes through drifts of ‘Hameln’ fountain grass and northern bayberry, beach plum and rugosa roses, leading down to the sandy beach.
Working closely with the Tisbury Conservation Commission, Horiuchi developed a step-by-step plan that prioritized revegetation as soon as construction was complete in an area. Whereas many sites save planting until the very end, this method proved to be so effective that she has since used it successfully on subsequent projects. “This project was a good example of how a thoughtful design process and close collaboration with the local conservation commission can help minimize construction impact on sensitive native landscapes,” she says.
After two years of construction, the masterpiece was complete. And when the landscape matured, the original vision was achieved. “The design on this landscape was all about creating connections from the house to the outside,” says Horiuchi. “It was about landscaping around the harbor and creating outdoor spaces with views beyond the property limits.”