Commercial Landscape Design Project- Old House Vineyards in Culpeper, Virginia

Yes, I do commercial design work as well. Not bid work- I’m a firm believer that when the only deciding factor is the lowest bid, everyone (including the client) loses- but work for property owners who believe the quality of the landscape design impacts their customers’ enjoyment of the space. I was fortunate to get to work with Pat and Allison Kearney, owners of Old House Vineyards in Culpeper, VA. They’ve decided to host weddings at their farm winery and built a large pavilion in which to hold receptions. I’m told that with capacity for 200 guests, Old House Vineyards has the largest outdoor wedding venue of any winery in Virginia. The design process started last year, and began with a new sign at the entrance to the property.

Rendering of Virginia Winery Entry Sign

With the magic of great carpenters, you can see that the finished product looks just like the rendering (minus the instant perennials, of course).

Photo of Old House Vineyards Entry Sign

From there, I created the landscape plan for the area immediately around the pavilion. One of the challenges was fitting in parking for the expected number of guests and providing a space for limousines to turn around, all without getting cars too close to the grapevines.

Landscape Plan for Old House Vineyards

As with any project, changes were made to the plan throughout the installation as other factors presented themselves. Even with that, I’m thrilled with how things turned out. Keep in mind that the plantings are still too soon for prime time (like the sign). Next year, as plants really take off, it’s going to look great!

Here’s what we started with:

…and an empty island as well:

The building went up quickly

As did the wedding arbor

Then, we started the landscaping with the path to the bridge. Landscape design for a large site is all about scale.

Needless to say, progress on my end of things ground to a halt once Snowpocalypse 2010 hit. Luckily we only lost a few plants, and this spring we really hit it in earnest. The last few weeks have seen a flurry of activity. Here are some shots from a few weekends ago:

And, in what may be may favorite photo, here’s a shot that the owner sent me of the wedding arbor at night:

Night Photo of the Wedding Arbor at Old House Vineyards

Plant Profile” Justin Brouwer Boxwood

Justin Brouwer Boxwood plant profile card

This is a boxwood I specify a fair bit. Why? Scale. Justin Brouwer stays tight and compact. The ones in the profile picture were taken at the home of the grower’s relative. They were planted over twenty-five years ago, if I remember correctly, and they’ve maintained a tight ball roughly 30 inches in diameter. I prefer the look of a boxwood that’s not sheared really hard, just lightly pruned and shaped. These work out perfectly for that.

Boxwood are a fascinating plant, actually. I had the good fortune to attend a talk by Lynn Batdorf, the curator of the National Boxwood Collection at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington. It was one of the most incredible plant geekfests I’ve ever been to- so cool! The man loves his boxwood (note: the plural of boxwood is boxwood. Boxwood lovers will dopeslap you if you throw an “S” on there), and he’s an amazing wealth of knowledge. Here are some boxwood fun facts he shared:

  • The landscape use of boxwood dates to twelfth century Eastern Europe. It was believed that evil spirits would hide in plants near the home and sneak inside; boxwood, being denser than water, is too dense for evil spirits to hide inside, so boxwood were planted by the front door as a safeguard from spirits. That’s where the foundation planting tradition comes from. I know! How cool is that?
  • Because it’s so dense, boxwood doesn’t swell or shrink, making it a popular choice for seafaring navigational instruments
  • While we associate boxwood with colonial America and old European gardens, there are ten times as many tropical varieties as temperate varieties.

My favorite part of the talk? Mr. Batdorf showed a slide of an as-yet unnamed boxwood. He said “Look at the exfoliating bark. A boxwood with exfoliating bark. Isn’t that exciting?!” And we all went “ooooooh!” and leaned forward. It was like watching the IMAX “To Fly!” at the Air & Space Museum and looking around at everyone leaning 45 degrees to vertical as the biplane loops around on screen.

My name is Dave Marciniak, and I am a plant nerd.