According to landscape architects Mary Palmer Dargan and Hugh Graham Dargan, every property can be broken down into four basic parts: the Approach and Arrival, the Hub, the Perimeter and Passages to Destinations.

Last summer Whit Harvey Group team member, Maureen Lalley and her husband John, attended a workshop presented by the Dargans in Cashiers, North Carolina. An avid gardener with an interest in landscape design, Maureen wanted to find out more about this “Four Part Master Plan” directly from the source. She is using what she learned at her own home in Ruxton, and is eager to share her insights with her clients.

The Approach and Arrival Sequence

Everyone has heard the term “curb appeal” but decoding the approach to a home goes beyond mere aesthetics and gets into to the mechanics. The Approach and Arrival sequence, which begins at the street and ends at the front door, includes three parts:
• Drive portal
• Parking court
• Entry nodule

“For centuries, a long axial driveway leading up to the front of a building underscored the property’s significance and impressed visitors with a sense of dignity and grandeur.” Mary and Hugh Dargan

So you don’t live in a manor house with a long drive? Scaled down to smaller properties, a skillfully designed approach and arrival can still have intriguing and unforgettable results.

The Hub

Whatever its style or scale, the house is the centerpiece of the property. Architectural composure deals with the style, size and mass of your house and its relationship to the ground plane. Each style has building materials associated with it, such as brick, stone, stucco and wood, that can harmonize with freestanding walls and paved areas.

Scale is key when developing the appropriate landscaping for your home. If the house is a mansion, plant large-scale trees and shrubs. For little “architectural gems”, look to historic house museums and old photographs. For cottages, almost anything goes, as long as it is intimate and personal in scale.

Creating and improving vistas and captured views is the second design consideration. Vistas work both ways – from the house to the grounds, and the grounds to the house.

Captured views are created from windows and doors with focal-point gardens, or eye-catchers from the inside of the house looking out to build visual links between the interior rooms and the outdoors. Windows and doors are excellent framing devices and help create the dynamic connections between the two spaces. For a captured view to connect with the interior of the house, consider harmonizing the interior colors with the exterior views.

The Perimeter

The perimeter consists of the outdoor spaces immediately adjacent to the house and within easy reach of the interior. These include terraces, decks, porches and lawns. Places for dining, cooking, gardening and entertaining wrap around the house in one continuous picture as linked perimeter spaces. You might think of each area as a room without walls, but seamlessly connected.

Passages and Destinations

This part of the Master Plan is about design elements that invite exploration and enjoyment of garden environments set away from the house itself. A destination can be as simple as a wooden bench under a tree, or a unique birdhouse nestled in a corner, or as elaborate as a pavilion or secluded garden sanctuary. The journey there should be as enjoyable as the destination.

Whatever size home you have, decoding the areas of your property using the Four-Part Master Plan can work for you. Using harmonious materials creates a seamless flow, and adding planting for beauty and interest and can be used to shape spaces and solve visual problems. “Memorable moments” can occur at any point from the street to the front door.

Photo by Maureen Lalley.
 Maureen and her husband helped their friends create a more balanced foundation planting by moving existing boxwoods and replanting them according to size to form a pleasing “node” as a transition between walkway and front porch.

For more information and details on how to create the best plan your your home, read “Timeless Landscape Design: The Four-Part Master Plan, by Mary Palmer Dargan, ASLA and Hugh Graham Dargan, ASLA.

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