Capitol Hill Restoration Society

Designing & Creating a Private Garden – Preservation Cafe

Posted on November 14th, 2023

Author Claudia Kousoulas presented a virtual Preservation Café “Designing and Creating a Private Garden,” Tuesday, November 28, 2023. Creating a garden is a work of complexity and creativity. Each region has its own landscape materials and traditions, each site has its challenges and opportunities, and each gardener has a vision for their personal expression and environment. The presentation was recorded.

November 28 was a cold and blustery day in Washington – perfect for enjoying a relaxing and inspirational presentation on how to design the perfect garden by Claudia Kousoulas, author of Private Gardens of the Potomac & Chesapeake (Schiffer, 2023).

Kousoulas shared the welcoming and colorful photographs of her book, which is part of a series on regionalism and sustainability in landscape design. The book features the many different environments in the Washington region – from the green space of our smaller, urban gardens to engaging suburban environments to complex rural landscapes and waterfront estates. She hopes attendees can apply some of these same ideas of symmetry, lines, balance, and color to their own private gardens regardless of their size

She discussed the unseen engineering that underlies most gardens that must solve practical issues such as drainage from rainwater to groundwater. Kousoulas pointed to the structural elements that support one of the first green roofs in the country, which Lisa Delplace of Oehme Van Sweden, OvS, created in Georgetown. Other landscape architects have since adopted the OvS style, which features a natural, painterly, layered approach with native plants and wildflowers for artistry, habitat, and sustainability.

Kousoulas showed how the designers of the OSLOatlas coliving apartments at 1219 Florida Avenue, NE, incorporated light and natural elements to transform concrete areas into a peaceful urban sanctuary. Designers adopted a more traditional style when they repurposed the abandoned Chapman Stables, a former stopping point for travelers to park their horses at 57 N Street, NW, into trendy but clearly historic condominiums with a stunning herringbone brick entryway. She later noted how the wrought iron fences that surround many of our gardens on Capitol Hill signal that this is where people live. Entry is a key element, dividing our public, semi-public, and private spaces.

Kousoulas said landscape designers bring their expertise and fine eye to each project – ensuring water protection for the Chesapeake Bay, creating habitats with a palette of native plants, creating visually arresting environments, and fitting gardens into historic communities. Each one upends our expectations for residential gardens.

Our CHRS Preservation Cafés are free to both CHRS members and non members.