Rachel Cope Evans Garden

Philadelphia, PA 2011-present

This 1922 Colonial Revival/Pennsylvania vernacular style house was designed by Philadelphia architect Carl A. Ziegler. It was one of the last houses to be built in the extended family enclave that now is Awbury Arboretum. Today, it is one of the privately owned houses within the Awbury Historic District. The current owners are passionate gardeners, students of garden history, and preservation-minded. We have been assisting them with various projects inside and out. Prior to our involvement, a major garden design project had been implemented, so much of our work had to dovetail with that design.

Landscape Plan Illust

Like most American houses, the Rachel Cope Evans House has a front and a back door: the former formal and proper, and the later being the one that everyone actually uses. It also has 2 other doors, one from a porch and one from the dining room. By virtue of these doors, the house has a strong linkage with its grounds, but the arrival sequence was confusing. In the mid 20th-century the original approach drive to the front of the house was eliminated and replaced with the current shared driveway that winds around from the rear. Arriving at the house by car (or on foot) one was confronted by two possible entries, neither of which was the way the owners wanted you to come in. At the opposite end of the house, a recent project had established a large, relatively high terrace overlooking one of the spectacular meadows that are the legacy of the 19th century landscape.

Our first landscape project was to fix the approach to the house, direct visitors to the front door and to complete the planning of the garden. This was accomplished through the re-alignment of the driveway, parking area and walkways, and with the addition of a new out-building.

Approach to front door, before

Approach to front door, after

The idea of the garden shed as a foil to the main house was equal parts aesthetic and practical. By screening the rear of the house from the driveway, it helps to direct attention deeper into the lot. It also provides much-needed storage and garden work areas. The boundary between the shared driveway and the private garden is formed by a clipped beech hedge, the gap in which clearly marks the way.

Walk to front door from driveway, 2018

On the other side of the hedge, the planting between the walk and the front door was simplified to allow the existing portico over the door to be seen immediately. With the goal in sight there is no need for signage or directions: stepping onto the curving walk, one is drawn to the front door.

Beech hedge and garden shed, fall 2015

On the garden side of the shed the potting bench faces a courtyard, now known as the “Bird Court.” This is an intimate space where the owners can spend time together (often to the dismay of the birds) engaged their shared avocation.

The garden shed and bird court shortly after completion

Shrub border, summer 2017

Expansion of the bulb garden across the entry walk, spring 2016