Tour the Grounds and Gardens of an Elegant Horse Farm
Located in Maryland horse country, not far from Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course, Hickory Ridge is an historic farm specializing in caring for expectant mares and birthing thoroughbred foals. When award-winning landscape architect Jay Graham was hired to develop a garden for a newly renovated cottage on the old estate, he welcomed the challenge, being partial to heritage properties.
“The grounds had a lot of centuries-old trees, as well as lawns and boxwoods, but they didn’t have any gardens,” adds Graham.
Instead, there existed the 1750s manor house and several outbuildings, including the cottage, root cellar, barn and a small cemetery. Other than being period, little connected them.
“The family wanted me to give the cottage context and create a cutting garden for domestic use,” says Graham.
Taking cues from the quaint cottage, with its fieldstone walls and dormer windows, Graham developed an English-style garden. He first laid a brick path from the cottage to the manor, instead of simply lawn, and then drew existing shrubs and trees into his design.
“Seeing as there was no trained gardener attached for upkeep, I chose easy-to-maintain perennials—long-blooming ones, like coneflowers, and showy ones that come and go, like peonies,” he says.
Graham also wound a gravel walking-path through the garden, which now boasts a cottage variety of clustered plants, with lower profile plantings in the front and taller ones in the back. The delighted homeowners asked Graham to implement similar gardens throughout the estate.
In celebration of the Baltimore Pimlico Race Course Preakness Stakes each spring, “the family host an annual Preakness party for the horse race in May, so we developed the West Garden between the main house and horse paddocks,” says Graham, adding, “we worked with the Maryland state flag colors for the spring bloom, with red and white tulips, and later black-eyed Susans. The garden settles into a less vivid end-of-summer garden.”
Additionally, Graham laid walking-paths to various outbuildings on the property, which he incorporated into the overall design as destinations, each with its own version of an English garden.
A man-made mound—which lies between the root cellar (now a wine cellar) and barn (now an office)—had been covered in suburban-looking junipers. Graham added loosely structured layers, from lanky salvia to low-lying thyme for balance. The cemetery garden is a tad more formal, with linear plantings.
To cap things off, Graham put a gravel driveway up to the manor with an avenue of fast-growing willow oaks, and he also created a peripheral buffer to the entire property of evergreens and flowering trees.
“I worked hard to make everything look as if it’d always been there,” say Graham. “A timeless property with the detail of the individual gardens yet set in the sweeping landscape.”