La Dolce Vita
Written by Blair Farris
Photography by Ira Montgomery
On a tree lined street in Highland Park, quiet elegance is found behind the layers of clipped hedges of Nellie R. Stevens holly and Little Gem magnolias. The quiet is punctuated by grandchildren’s laughter and joy, spouting fountains and lush annuals and perennials. But the garden wasn’t always this way.
In 1999, when Marcy and Steve Sands were well into the third design of the garden, they felt it just wasn’t right. After several recommendations they called landscape architect Paul Fields, Director of Design for Lambert’s Landscape Company in Dallas, TX.
Their first meeting began with a lively discussion and then a rough sketch to generate conversation about the redesign. At first sight, Fields realized the English garden didn’t fit because it was not cohesive with the Italian Renaissance style of the home. The Sands loved the new ideas Fields offered from the start and the team set about to create a garden centered on the Italian style architecture of the home, but using the plants and materials that thrive in Texas. What ensued is a verdant garden encompassing a series of outdoor rooms with incredible attention to detail creating a secret garden that is not completely revealed at first sight, but must be explored.
The project from start to finish only took about 18 months. Fields felt the motor court needed to be in scale with the front of the limestone house. They pulled up the antique cobble stones and reset them in sand with dichondra—a tiny, but tough evergreen ground cover—planted in between to give the driveway a feeling of age. The parking court was enlarged and a carved limestone bench added that also serves as a retaining wall. Large rectangular lead planters with clipped boxwoods were placed at the front of the house to transition the scale of the house down to the garden.