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Pretty Garden with Outdoor Rooms

A Michigan garden offers comfortable, calm, year- round pleasure

Written by Ethne Clarke
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    First appearances can be deceiving, as this 1920s-built house, 20 minutes from downtown Detroit, demonstrates. From the street, it is every bit the quintessential mock-Tudor tucked into a cozy quarter acre. A circular drive, set off by a formal boxwood hedge and fountain, separates the house from the street; the entrance porch has been remodeled to hint at Prairie School style, giving the house a sense of down-to-earth honesty redolent of its Midwest location.

    Homeowners Bonnie Picue and husband Paul Dietz wouldn’t have it any other way, and with the aid of their designer, the late Brian Killian, and prominent local landscape designer Richard Hass, they have created a home and garden that complement each other perfectly in a blend of clean, modern comfort within a traditional frame.

    “The exterior, with its combination of stucco, heavy wood beams, and aged brickwork, elaborates the Tudor-period style of the house, while the interior carries the modern theme,” says Hass, a New Yorker who came west 15 years ago to establish a practice that is very much in tune with the needs of Michigan homeowners and the climate they live in.

    The front garden was planted first; the clipped hedge, water feature, and hydrangeas hint at the content of the main garden, hidden from view, behind the house.

    Photography: Matthew Benson
    Produced by Sandra L. Mohlmann

    Landscape architect: Richard Hass, RLA, Stewart Hass & Associates, 2320 Greater Mack Ave., Suite 2, St. Clair Shores, MI 48080; 586/779-4500

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    Parterre

    “Lush, evergreen, structured gardens are the answer here,” Hass explains, describing himself as a “feet in the trenches” landscape designer. His gardens are geared to work with his clients’ homes and be as livable in the summer as they are ornamental during the winter.

    The little parterre garden was designed last to play on the minimalist formality of the main garden— and as a bit of fun to view from the great- room window.

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    Pretty Presentation

    Bonnie’s preference is for a put-together look, clean and manicured; there is nothing hodgepodge about the way the garden color scheme is assembled from a limited palette of creams and greens in plant accents against the dramatic statement of the white-curtained pergola and patio areas.

    Richard Hass, the landscape architect for the Picue-Dietz garden, believes in the importance of axial layouts and controlled views to unite a house with its garden setting. From the front door of the house, the flow pattern leads straight to the pergola and the dining area, while the view from the great-room window leads past the curtained “walls” to focus on the swimming pool.

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    Purple Petunias

    Drifts of feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’) and ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas give a full, rich look without being cluttered. The only blast of loud color comes from the purple petunias cascading from urns used as accents around the garden.

    Deck chairs covered in white canvas are corralled at the end of the swimming pool. On sunny days, a white umbrella tops each of the chairs.

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    Hydrangeas

    “Early on we decided that we didn’t want a huge variety of plants,” explains Hass. “In this project, less was absolutely more.” This theme is carried through in the interior of the house, where again the palette is restrained to subtle grays and dark woody tones accented with crisp white. Textures and shapes are used inside and out to layer interest into every space.

    ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas and daylilies with ivory-colored flowers are the predominant perennials in a restrained planting scheme.


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    Seating Areas

    Bonnie and Paul agree that for them the garden is all about making the most of their outdoor space, and to do this, they’ve created comfortable areas that offer different experiences. They’ve achieved these goals not just by the use of hedge screens and drifts of perennials but also by clearly defining each room through its furnishings—an outdoor sofa here, a deck chair and umbrella there—to make the small garden seem larger than it is.

    Though small, the garden contains a number of seating areas.

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    Outdoor Spaces

    In the design process, purpose was at the forefront of everyone’s mind, says Bonnie. “Brian had a vision for the pergola; he wanted it to have height, with tall columns and flowing curtains to give it presence as well as privacy. His inspiration came from the lobby of the Delano Hotel in Miami.”

    This is a small garden of many parts, each with its own character and purpose. 

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    Front Fountain

    Killian also specified fountains in the front and side gardens and utilized the swimming pool as the focal point of the view from the house’s great room.

    A splashing fountain is sited opposite the house entrance.

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    Pool

    Water is a theme uniting the garden’s various parts. But the effect is not just about picture making. Because of the modest scale of the property, the grass lawn was brought right up to the edge of the swimming pool coping, while the pool itself was lined with a product that gives a natural-looking surface so that it doubles as a reflecting pool and a play space/spa.

    The swimming pool and hot tub are decorative as well as hardworking.

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    Pool Detail

    Granite spheres emphasize the garden’s linear plan.  

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    Pergola Views

    The pergola serves as the outdoor dining room; the kitchen is just inside the nearby back door, so food service is easy. “We can do breakfast, lunch, or dinner,” says Bonnie. “The billowing curtains and candles make for a truly romantic setting.” The patio and fireplace across the lawn are used regularly by the family’s three teenage children and their friends.

    But what about winter? Don’t the outdoor rooms get a little chilly to use? “We shovel a path to the patio through the snow, throw down a runner, fire up the space heaters, light a good fire, and that’s where we’ll end the evening. It’s great fun,” Bonnie laughs. “The kids use the hot tub all year long, too. Afterward, they roll in the snow, then sit around the fire. It’s fun to see them in their bathing suits, roasting s’mores and surrounded by a foot of snow.”

    The dining area’s covered pergola frames the fireplace and patio. 

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    Homeowner Portrait

    Asked to describe her garden, Bonnie pauses. “You know, from every point there is visual solace, an air of peace. We want you to feel welcome and soothed.” Blissed-out is closer to the mark.

    Homeowner Bonnie Picue. 

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