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Yard Haven – House & Design Mag

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A steep ridge in Arlington, once considered unbuildable, presented a conundrum for landscape architect Scott Brinitzer. When the owners hired him to transform the lot into usable outdoor space, he was confronted with a flat, 30-by-60-foot lawn behind the residence, bordered on three sides by an angular, 25-foot-high brick wall, painted blue, that held back a natural woodland above.

“I was initially perplexed,” he recalls, “because it was an area without shape. It’s not a square, it’s not a circle, it’s not a rectangle. It’s formed by a wall placed to hold the soil back and allow the house to be built.”

The overarching challenge, Brinitzer decided, was “to make some sort of recognizable form out of what was treated by the builder as leftover space.” To reduce the wall’s visual impact, he installed a custom steel trellis in front of it. Now supporting two swinging chairs, it creates a focal point and a horizon line. Fronting the trellis, a bluestone terrace with limestone insets complements the Craftsman-style house. It provides space for separate dining and lounge areas and a raised square planter containing a tall Natchez crape myrtle.

To obscure the wall and neighboring properties, Brinitzer added Japanese cedars along the property line. Slender Silhouette sweetgums were planted behind the trellis, clusters of Steeplechase arborvitae were pruned into rectangles at different heights and Miami crape myrtles with vibrant pink blooms back the seating area. Prague viburnums are arranged around the edge of the patio, and dwarf mondo grass, astilbe and maidenhair ferns border a new, curved stone stair that descends to the front yard.

“The beauty of this,” Brinitzer observes, “is that I’m using ideas I’ve used before, but in new ways. This was a challenging, not immediately obvious solution.”

Landscape Architecture: Scott Brinitzer, PLA, ASLA, Scott Brinitzer Design Associates, Arlington, Virginia. Landscape Contractor: Wildwood Landscape, Round Hill, Virginia.

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