LANDSCAPE – SEPTEMBER 2008
By Joshua Bodwell
Photography Trent Bell
Ponds, paths, and native plantings on the Blue Hill peninsula
Bold and bodacious landscape designs can offer a dramatic visual feast. But the higher art often occurs when natural elements are subtly accentuated to produce quieter yet ultimately more resonant results. Such is the case with a project that landscape architect Bobbie Burdick has been gradually refining for more than a decade on the Blue Hill peninsula.
The seventeen-acre site is archetypal Maine: protrusions of half-buried rock ledge, jumbles of lichen- and moss-covered boulders, and even the remains of former granite quarry. The inherent simplicity of the site could easily have been ruined by a heavy-handed design. Yet Burdick, employing a delicate but inspired touch, created a landscape that appears as though it has existed undisturbed for centuries.
“This project is always at its peak,” says Burdick, whose firm Burdick & Associates teamed with, among others, Elliott Elliott Norelius Architecture and Freshwater Stone, to execute the design. The site always feels full and lush because, as Burdick explains, “except for the water lilies, there are literarily no flowers.”
Burdick’s palette was composed of native plantings that she discovered on-site. The list itself even conjures up images of Maine: huckleberry, bunchberry sod, hay-scented fern, and pitch pine. Burdick’s challenge was to accentuate these plantings while shaping a landscape that was neither overplanted nor sparse. “We wanted to create a design so well integrated that the project itself disappeared,” says Burdick.
Amazingly, even the most unnatural element of the hardscape design feels understated and entirely natural: an eight-foot-wide spa. “We wanted it to appear as though it was a glacier-carved basin,” says Burdick. Though it is just fifty feet from the main home, Burdick fashioned a space—by nestling the granite spa against an existing ledge at the end of a winding path—that is at once both convenient and invisible. “It has always been our intent to create a harmonious connection between the natural and built elements of this peculiar site—we feel that the integration of the spa pushed that idea to its limit,” she concludes.
While the spa is breathtaking, Burdick is proud of the entire design, which, over the years, included building a tennis court in a blasted hole, creating a child’s playground within a grove of native pitch pines, and turning a once stagnant quarry pool into a lush, lively pond.
“It is a very rare site,” says Burdick, “and unusual to have no flowers. But it is probably one of the most peaceful spaces I’ve ever worked on.”
Partial Plant List for the Blue Hill Peninsula Landscape: