For years Jennie kept a file of photos and articles that captured elements of a dream garden she envisioned for her Harford County home.


In 2006 the garden she and her husband Jim had always wanted was born.

“When they started talking to me,” says Bob Farmer owner of Gristmill Landscaping, “I had to be honest with them. It was going to cost more than I knew they would ever recoup when they sold their house.” He explains that on average 15 to 20 percent of a property’s value can be spent on landscaping and recovered at the time of sale.  The couple said that they were not planning on selling and would be staying in the house to enjoy their new garden.

“It took six weeks of constant work,” says Farmer, who designed and  installed the transformation of the two-acre property. From a routine brick patio with foundation plantings, a few raised beds and perennial borders came a bucolic oasis.

The focal point of the back garden, where the couple entertains family, grandchildren and friends, is an elaborate water feature. Created with 70 tons of Pennsylvania fieldstone a 90-foot sequence of waterfalls, stream, granite bridge and two stair-step ponds looks as if it has always been there.  “It was sited to fit naturally into the space,” says Farmer. The curved water feature compliments the linear design of the house and provides visual and auditory interest from the house interior, the sun porch and a new bluestone patio.

The new gardens, flanking the stream and ponds and surrounding the house, have four seasons of interest. They also have layers of varied textures with a palette of yellows, reds and greens with a counterpoint of blue. Ferns, perennials, shrubbery and trees are situated so that sunlight and shadows play off of them for further texture and dimension.

Original oak trees and native dogwoods add to the mature appearance of the garden. A mixture of conifers has replaced a line of problematic white pines. Ornamental trees interspersed throughout include a variety of eight Japanese maples, redbuds, a paperbark maple, dwarf hinoki cypress, globe blue spruce and Japanese styrax. Lemony witch hazel and sweet smelling Korean spice viburnum add spring fragrance.


Farmer likes a mixture plants for variety and texture. “But you have to have mass them to tie everything together,” he says. Large stands of perennials like Black-eyed Susans, sedum autumn joy, Shasta daises, coneflowers and Siberian irises flow naturally, like the water, through the gardens, punctuated by ornamental trees and grasses.


While varied in horticulture, harmony defines this Harford County dream garden. Mission accomplished.


Gristmill Landscaping

1532 Jarrettsville Road | Jarrettsville, MD, 21084 | 410-557-4213