An Award-Winning Garden in Brookline

April 14, 2015

By Paula M. Bodah

When we ran a piece about a garden designed by Matthew Cunningham in our November-December 2014 issue we knew we were looking at a special space. So we weren’t at all surprised to learn that the project recently won a gold award at the Association of Professional Landscape Designers’ 2015 International Landscape Design Awards. We thought a second look at Matthew’s award-winning project was in order.

The house, designed by Stern McCafferty Architecture and Interiors, is an airy, modern, split-level in Brookline, Massachusetts. Matthew’s goal was a landscape plan that—like the house—had an organic, serene, and peaceful feeling. He wanted his clients to be able to sit outside in their urban neighborhood but feel as removed from the world as if they were at the beach. The three nationally known experts who made up the judging panel included Julie Moir Messervy, a Vermont landscape architect whose work has graced our pages more than once. She and the other judges agreed that a strength of Matthew’s work is the way the plantings honor the architecture.  “The architecture and landscape flow, and are in balance…” the judges said. “A stellar example of site and landscape design.”

Mathew Cunningham Boston Landscape Architecture

Photography by Mathew Cunningham

One way Matthew achieved the balance the judges so admired was with masses of plantings. For instance, he used vivid yellow carex alerta—a grasslike sedge—at the foot of the retaining wall and the stairs, then planted more in the yard atop the wall. “By using swaths of the same material, it has a calming presence in the landscape,” he explains.

Mathew Cunningham Boston Landscape Architecture

Near the house, Matthew constructed bluestone terraces to hold seating and dining areas, but he gave the terraces an asymmetrical edge so that they gently merge with a walking path and the gardens.

Mathew Cunningham Boston Landscape Architecture

Color and scent are also important in this landscaping plan. Spiky salvia and fluffy allium, shown here, are joined by Russian sage, creeping thyme, and hay-scented fern. “Even when things aren’t in bloom, there’s something special about the garden because there’s an aroma that’s really nice,” Matthew says.

Mathew Cunningham Boston Landscape Architecture

The judges’ verdict says it all: “This is a wonderful project, beautifully executed in every way.”