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The Office of Landscape Architect, Tom Benjamin (413) 687-1135 tom@wellnesscapes.com
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Ecological Coastal Estate
Charlestown, RI

Working in a spectacular location overlooking the water, Tom transformed a conventional, high-input, suburban-type landscape into a resilient, coastally appropriate ecosystem in close association with full renovation of this classic Rhode Island coastal home.  While the home’s interior renovation opened up rooms and indoor spaces to outdoor views, Tom enhanced those broad views across Ninigret Pond, a tidal estuary, to the distant barrier beach.

Work in this to highly regulated coastal bank buffer setting required intensive environmental permitting to allow ecologically-based alterations including strategic invasive species removal and extensive new plantings of coastal natives.    Tom also addressed requirement to handle all stormwater runoff on site through developing a beautiful and functional rain garden in a highly visible location.

The home’s renovation centered around a new in-ground swimming pool and spa, patio, outdoor kitchen and fire ring space.  The landscape design help tie the hard elements to the coastal site with extensive sweeps of native grasses, wildflowers and low shrubs providing color and interest throughout the warmer months and habitat value throughout the year. Redesigned entry drive and walks enhanced sense of entry with improved circulation using local materials for stone walls and grist mill wheel set off with a simple yet rich palette of planting colors and textures.  A broad sweep of native little bluestem grass carries the eye to the water beyond blurring the distinction between land and water as grasses shimmer in the breeze like waves.

Based on the success of the project’s first phase, the client expanded Tom’s work to extend beyond the immediate home to encompass the property’s entire acreage.  Former lawn areas more distant from the house have been transformed into low maintenance wildflower meadows, productive orchard and berry patch, and butterfly garden developed in close proximity to an apiary (bee house).  A large specimen maple tree has been preserved and enhanced through pruning and lush native shade garden at its feet.

Tom has prepared a detailed maintenance plan for the owner, which will lead to a very low maintenance landscape regime within a few years’ time.

Ground hogs!  
With client and designer both highly motivated to enhance coastal habitat at this property, one of the biggest challenges turned out to be…..wildlife!  Specifically, a very hungry ground hog appreciated the home’s renovation so much that he/she took up residence directly under the new front porch!  From such a strategic location this critter was well positioned to devour many new plantings.  However, through some creative deterrence techniques, protection of new plantings and emphasis on less palatable varieties, the ground hog seems to have moved on.  Whew!!!

Project Highlights

  • Extended sense of water into the property with resilient, low maintenance meadows
  • Enhanced water views and biodiversity through sensitive management of coastal bank including invasive species removal and new drought-tolerant plantings
  • Embellished new pool, spa and outdoor kitchen with coastal stone and plantings
  • Added productive orchard, berry patch and vegetable gardens
  • Improved ecological richness and beauty through new apiary and pollinator garden
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