Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy Spring!

It's March 20th.....the Vernal Equinox.  A week ago we were bracing for winter storm Stella, which dropped 16" of snow here in New London, and much more in other places throughout Northern New England.  Prior to that, things were starting to look much more spring-like around here.  Most of our snow had disappeared, minus a few shady spots and dirty parking lot piles.  The buds of the red maple in front of my house had begun to swell, the maple syrup tappers were out in full force, and some of the lilies around the office even started to break though the soil.  Then winter came roaring back.  Anyways, it won't be long.  I'm getting anxious to see the bulbs I planted in October sprout and bloom.

Meanwhile, in the office here at Bonin Architects, we've been busy, getting plans together for this summer.  We have an exciting variety of projects taking shape.  We've been working on new construction lake homes, several additions, renovations, residential master planning, a commercial master plan and feasibility study, and some in-house office projects.  So, this should be an exciting season for us.  Here's a look at some projects we've been working on this winter.

Courtyard rendering for a collection of family-owned properties.  Limited open space on tight lots is utilized to unify adjoining properties with shared outdoor space.  Architectural detailing further helps to unify what are very different existing structures.

Terrace design for addition.  Previous clients were able to purchase an abutting easement, allowing them to expand their existing home.

Previous clients expressed a desire for addition shade on their lakeside terrace.  We designed this pergola with retractable shade screens to be added to their existing home.  We were able to generate real shade conditions to show the clients what they will gain from the structure depending on time of day and season.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

For the past couple years, as part of our seasonal decorations, I've gone out to harvest some wild Winterberry for the planter boxes here at Bonin Architects.  I was able to trim these boughs off some plants I spotted in the swampy low lands along Lyon Brook at the northwest end of Kezar Lake.  The profuse, bright red berries make them easy to spot in a winter landscape devoid of color.  Spotting them is the easy part, if you know where to look.  Getting to them without getting wet feet is the hard part since they typically are growing is shallow water and wetland areas which tend to be not quite frozen yet.  As with anything that you harvest from nature, always keep the environment in mind.  Use proper pruning techniques, tread lightly, and only take what you need.  When harvested with care, mature plants should provide for years and years.  Happy Holidays!

Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, is a deciduous shrub native to the northeast and is a member of the Holly family.  Evergreen Hollies, such as Ilex meserve, are also popular to use for holiday decorations.  (Ya know?......Deck the Halls)

Winterberry is a great native plant for the landscape, especially for use in artificial wetlands or rain gardens, though they grow just fine in average soil as well.  In New Hampshire, in Winter, there are few plants natives that offer the splash of color of Winterberry provides.  In the nurseries, you'll tend to find many cultivars developed with superior form, size, color, and berry abundance to the straight native species such as 'Red Sprite', 'Sparkleberry',  or 'Winter Red'.
I think I enjoyed going out to cut the boughs even more than I enjoy looking at them.  Harvesting from nature can be an incredibly gratifying experience, especially this time of year.  I'd take a crisp morning walk in woods over blinking lights, department stores, and inflatable snow globes any day of the week.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Autumn Planting

Fall is a great time to plant, and not just for springs bulbs.  I recently planted about 300 Daffodil, Hyacinth and Allium bulbs at the Bonin Architects office, but that's a post for another day.  The primary benefit of late season planting is that cooler temperatures mean less heat stress on your new plantings.  Shorter days, lower sun, and lower temps mean your plants are less likely to dry out and will probably need less watering.  Another benefit of fall installation is that plants have put on a season of growth in the nursery, so the plant you're buying, though in the same size container, is bigger and probably a bit sturdier than the same plant you would have purchased in the spring.  Also, it's often cheaper.  You can usually find perennials at discounted prices in the fall at your local garden center as stores are trying to liquidate their stock for the winter.  If you can get past the disappointment of a few brown and yellow leaves and the absence of a bright colorful flower, fall planting makes a lot of sense.  Vision and patience!  When you're out buying your Mums, see what's on the discount rack.

This week we started planting the project from my previous post.  Check out these progress photos.
Mixed perennial beds include Echinacea 'Magnus', Leucanthemum, Perovskia, Achillea, and Rudbeckia among others.
Rhododendrons transplanted from on-site soften the walls and really help to ground the property.
The Sweetshrub, Caylcathus floridus, pictured on the left here with the yellow foliage, will provide a brilliant, fruity fragrance to people using the patio.  Patio is surrounded with mixed perennials including Stella de Oro Daylilies, Catmint, Pinks, and Salvia.  Iris sibirica 'Caesar's Bother' lines the front of the rain garden beyond.
Plants with greater shade tolerance will populate the spaces along this walkway and in between retaining boulders including  Hostas, Tiarella, Astilbes, and Alchemilla
Fall foliage is peaking across the lake, but this walkway will have some great color next spring and summer as well.  Endless Summer Hydrangeas, Astilbes, Foamflower,  and Lady's Mantle will provide a great range of color and textures.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Project Progress

I thought I'd share some progress photos of a new home and landscape we have under construction.  This home and landscape was designed completely in-house at Bonin Architects.  The house itself has been under construction for about a year and the landscape construction started about three weeks ago.
Staked Goshen Stone steps flanked by boulders.

Concealed behind this fieldstone wall is a large dry well which is used to infiltrate stormwater collected from the roof and membrane decks by the gutter system.

Tiered retaining walls and steps will eventually meet a stair that descends from the porch.  As this house is relatively tall and narrow, the tiered walls do a great job of anchoring it to the site.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Lime'

For the longest time......I fought it.  I refused to design with Hydrangeas.  I thought they were too cliche.  Every grandma on the cul-de-sac had them planted along her front porch.  They were boring and as tacky as those grafted Weeping Kwanzan Cherries.  As a designer, I thought I was being bold by choosing not to spec them.  Well....Somewhere along the line I changed my tune.

I always ask clients if they have favorite plants that I should try to incorporate into a planting design. Of course, "Hydrangeas!" was the reply I usually got, and happy clients = successful design.  So I dove in.  As I became more open to using Hydrangeas, the more I realized that there were TONS of varieties:  Blues, pinks, purplish, greens, pure whites, greenish whites, blush whites.  Then, there are lace caps, the mop heads, panicles, 'Incrediballs', tree forms, vine forms, oak leaves....... Hydrangeas for shade, Hydrangeas for sun, huge ones, compact goes on and on.  The variety with-in the genus helped me grow to appreciate it.

One of the more popular varieties making a surge of late is Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Lime' (zones 3-8).  Being sold under the 'Proven Winners' brand, this Dwarf Panicle Hydrangea is widely available and has received numerous industry awards over the last few years.  'Little Lime' is a dwarf version of the also popular 'Lime Light'.  These should get to be 3-5' at maturity.  I've got these guys right in the front of the bed.  They are the definitely the mid-summer focal point.

These plants started as #3 pots and were planted in early/mid May.  They started blooming with-in the last couple weeks.  I expect that they'll probably bloom a little earlier next year when they're not recovering from transplant.

I've got these growing in a 'part shade' condition, under the canopy of an Ash tree, in a new bed I created this spring on the southern side of the Bonin Architects office.    In this morning's early shade, the pale-green panicles really popped against the darker backdrop of the bed.  I really enjoy the contrast with the Magnus Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus') planted adjacent to them as well.  It will be interesting to see how this combo compliments each other as the summer fades into fall and those pale green flowers begin to blush with pink.  (Maybe the subject of a later post...we'll see.)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Project Update

Since my last post, some exciting things have happened on site.  The interior of the house is wrapping up and our clients are preparing to move in soon.  I think everyone at Bonin Architects who has worked so hard on this project is really pleased with the product that has taken shape.  I was fortunate enough to walk through the house with our client yesterday morning and came away feeling very satisfied with how well the interior and exterior work together.  There seems to be a good view from almost every room in the house.  Whether it's the lake, forest, gardens, or the entry court, there is always something good to look at.  While I was on site one evening this week, after all the contractors had gone home, this site was dappled in shade, there was a slight breeze, loons were calling, and it could not have been more comfortable, peaceful, and serene.  I'm very happy that experience is something we are able to deliver to our clients.
Weather has been HOT....and relatively dry.  Great for enjoying the outdoors, not that great for new plants.  The irrigation system has done a nice job of fighting off the weather and keeping plants healthy.
Railings have been installed around the main terrace and the walkout basement stair.  They're made of custom fabricated steel frames (painted black) stained mahogany hand rails, and stainless steel cables.  The stainless steel rails do an amazing job of going away.  That is, not hindering the view beyond and actually reflecting colors from the landscape.

Copper gutters and rain chains have been installed to control roof run-off at the doorways to the terrace, as well as the front entry and rear garage entry.  The rain chains channel the water into catch basins concealed with-in the stone drip edge and then into the storm water management system.
Yesterday afternoon, the base layer of the asphalt driveway was installed.  Finish coat will go on after construction is all wrapped up and won't be damaged by construction vehicles or moving trucks.  Feels a lot more like a residence and less like a construction site.

Still to come on this project..........exterior column lights, finish coat on the driveway, and some bonus plantings.  We should have some echinacea blooming shortly as well as some hydrangeas and sedum.  I'm eager to see this landscape continue to evolve through the seasons.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Big Transformation

Last week sod went in on this project and the transformation was quite remarkable.  The site, which has been dry and dusty for months instantly felt cool, soft and lush.  The house and landscape began to feel as if they had been there for years and the design we had envisioned had really started to look like a finished product.
An early bird's eye conceptual rendering.
 The plants along the wall are Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiloaris).

The white flowering perennials you are seeing are Candytuft  (Iberis sempervirens) underneath a Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa) which hasn't totally leafed out yetbacked up by Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), which serves as both a backdrop for the Kousa and as privacy screening.  Also mixed in among the Hemlocks are several Winterberries (Ilex verticillata) which should provide interest in the winter months with their bright red berries.

Next up for this project.....railings, landscape lighting, and driveway.......stay turned and be sure to check out Bonin Architects to see some of our other work.