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Orange Village Dream

Family creates one-of-a-kind, eco-friendly landscape

Sometimes a dream home doesn’t come with a dream  landscape, as one Orange Village family learned a couple of years ago.  The plants and trees that existed in the yard were fine, but the couple really wanted to create an environment that was more than just a yard for their enjoyment and that of their children.  Upon the recommendation of the husband’s father, they called Salsbury-Schweyer Inc., an Akron-based landscape design and development company that had created a dream garden for him.By their own admission, the homeowners weren’t avid gardeners, but they did want more than just a cement patio and some perennials in their yard.  They were looking for a yard and garden area that incorporated native plants and created a natural barrier on their property.  They wanted someplace where their children could play and they wouldn’t have to worry.  They wanted a place to entertain and feel removed from the rigors of their everyday lives.  And that is precisely what the team at Salsbury-Schweyer Inc. gave them.

How does your garden grow?

“We approach every project with a desire to try to capture what would feed the homeowners’ souls,” says Sabrena Schweyer.  “We want to capture the essence of dream and bring it to the reality of the site, within the budget of our clients.”

Schweyer studied horticulture and the humanities in college.  While studying in England, she says, “I discovered how gardens are a reflection of a time and a place of the people who created them, and how they can even have a historic and political context.  I used my liberal arts education and explored agriculture and science, and learned to delve into what it is about a garden that makes us more of who we are in our own individual lives.”

Like most projects, work at the home began with a consultation.  Samuel Salsbury and Schweyer, the married team at the helm of Salsbury-Schweyer, Inc., went to the home and did a site survey and created a site plan that showed where all the existing structures and plants were currently.  Once the survey was completed, the homeowners completed a questionnaire with questions ranging from where they grew up to how often they entertain and where they like to travel.  This helps Salsbury and Schweyer learn more about what is truly important to people when they’re considering their recommendations and crafting the master plan for their space.

“This is a long and arduous process,” Schweyer says.  “We want clients that aren’t just looking for instant gratification.  We put a lot of planning and thought into our designs, and we want to work with clients who understand and appreciate the experience and environments we help them create.  We also ask them for photos of things they love—pictures of gardens and plants and even places that appeal to them,” she continues.

“Some of our clients are gardeners, but others don’t know what they are envisioning.  By encouraging them to collect images, they can come to better terms with what they like.  By sharing it with us we can capture an understanding of what it is that will make them happy so it becomes their garden instead of what we think will make them happy.”

Other questions and concerns that are discussed include: How involved do you want to be with maintaining your garden, and what are your priorities for the space?  Will it be a play area for your children and/or pets, or do you want to grow fruits and vegetables to serve in the kitchen?  Are you looking for a water feature or pond?

“All of these questions are designed to create an experience that reaches in and touches the soul of those that enter,” Schweyer says.  “It’s more than plants, patios and water; it’s creating that environment and taking the families into a greater connectedness.”

One with nature

After consulting with the homeowners, Schweyer found out the family wanted a natural-looking design.  Their home is backed by woods, and the house is in a development with relatively large lots so there is a feeling of the country.  They wanted to maintain that feeling and sense of being among nature, but without a lot of maintenance.  They appreciated the beauty of gardens and wanted something atypical.

During their preliminary meetings, Schweyer learned that the homeowners needed more space than their current concrete pavers patio gave them.  They love to entertain larger groups of people, and they have a relatively large family, so they wanted a multilevel patio to give them more space.

“We showed them pictures from our portfolio of work and got their feedback on what they liked,” Schweyer recalls.  “Their home reminded us of eastern Long Island—a beautiful home in a natural setting—so that’s what we wanted to come across with the landscape architecture we designed.”

The homeowners liked the idea of their yard being organic and environmentally friendly, and being filled with a variety of different trees and plants.  They wanted to encourage nature in their yard, except for deer, which is a big issue where they live.  They also wanted to avoid bees as much as possible because of their children.  The family also loves the fall and they wanted a garden area that showcased the changing seasons.  They wanted the front yard to be a public space so the house was visible from the street and the driveway was inviting.  However, they wanted their children to feel safe and buffered from the street while playing in the yard.

The homeowners weren’t drawn to traditional weeping plants or anything exotic looking.  Although they did choose some plants for the final design that weren’t native, eco-friendly decisions were made within every area.  For instance, soil preparation was of utmost importance since much of the topsoil is often removed during construction of new homes.  Salsbury-Schweyer brought in a large variety of compost, all recycled materials, to enhance the eco-friendliness of the design.  The homeowners understood the value of spending money to develop a healthy, living soil where the plants and trees they did choose would thrive.

A vision takes shape

Schweyer calls the final design “New American style,” a type of landscape developed within the last 30 years by the American firm, Oehme, van Sweden and Associates.  Oehme, van Sweden defines this style as a metaphor for a meadow.  The company’s website says that the New American Garden “…reflects the year-round beauty of the natural landscape.  It frees plants from forced and artificial forms and allows them to seek a natural course as they weave a tapestry across the entire garden plane.” 

The idea is to use plants such as perennials and ornamental grasses that are native and require limited maintenance, limited water and fertilizer and plants that change with the seasons and as they mature.  Salsbury and Schweyer’s final design for the homeowners was to create natural features throughout the property within the design in the simple colors the family wanted.  And, of course, they succeeded in making the entire yard family-friendly.

“In one of the giant planting beds, we have a path through the middle where the kids can run through or ride their bikes and really experience the plants by being in the middle of the big drift,” Schweyer says.
The homeowners’ landscape project was completed in 2003, but Schweyer says it typically takes until the third year for perennials in their designs to fill in and make the garden look mature.  And, she says, it should continue to mature and last for at least another 20 years, while a typical landscape lasts just seven years.

“Our philosophy is that we’re going to take a little more time upfront, determining the plan,” says Schweyer.  “It may cost a little bit more on the initial installation to do it right, but in the end the landscape will grow with the homeowner and become more beautiful with each passing year.”

In fact, good landscaping can have a tremendous effect on the value of a home.  According to an article in Money magazine, landscaping costs can be recouped at a value of 100 to 200 percent at selling time, while kitchen remodeling brings a 75 to 125 percent recovery rate, bathroom remodeling a 20 to 120 percent recovery rate, and addition of a swimming pool a 20 to 50 percent recovery rate.  It can make a huge contribution to the bottom line.  But money isn’t the reason to take on a project the magnitude of this.  It’s really about enjoying your life more.  If you create a space at your home that you can see and participate in every day, even if it’s just while pulling in and out of the driveway, you can create your own little slice of heaven to enjoy every day.

Schweyer enjoyed working with the family, and she says, “They were wonderful students.  The wife, in particular, just absorbed the information we gave to them and she has developed a new passion for gardening that she never had before this.  She has turned her attention to maintaining their gardens and is so knowledgeable and has a natural sense and intuitive understanding of how to maintain a garden while allowing it to mature.  She’s got a great aesthetic eye and has really gained an understanding of how to maintain their landscape with it.  And above all, it’s been truly great seeing the family enjoy the space.”

How does your dream garden grow?

Even though most of the existing plants, trees and shrubs could be reused at the house, a number of new plants were introduced to the landscape.  Among the new plants and trees were:

                6    River birch trees
                1    Dragon’s eye pine
                1    Sweet bay magnolia
                1    Gibralter bushclover
                1    rhododendron  (to match an existing one)
                Lady’s mantle
                Ornamental onion
                Blue star
                Joe Pye weed
                Purple cone flower
                Coral bells
                Fountain grass
                Russian sage

Editor’s Note: Salsbury-Schweyer Inc. has been in business for more than a decade.  While much of the work they do has historically been in Northeast Ohio, they have a national reputation and are getting more and more projects outside the region.  Both are certified by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, and Samuel Salsbury is the president-elect of the organization.  For more information visit:

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