pushhome.net – Play Scape – Home & Design Magazine


For a backyard reinvention in McLean, landscape architect Howard Cohen of Surrounds, Inc., had to engage in subtraction before he could add amenities. Dozens of truckloads of dirt were hauled away to transform a barren slope into a landscape designed for outdoor living and recreation.

The finished property, which won a Distinction award, is now terraced to fit a mountain of boulders; they rise six feet from the edge of a pool and serve as a retaining wall supporting holly and arborvitae. The pile of Tennessee stone doubles as a waterfall and jumping-off point for three kids. A 12-foot-wide spillway stone weighs in at three tons.

“It was pretty easy to install. The rest of the rock was in place,” says Cohen, adding that when the monster stone arrived, “the crane just lifted it up there.”

Cohen designed the pool 10 feet deep to ensure safety for adventurous water nymphs. (A lifeguard’s chair is stationed nearby.) Occupying the lower yard, a synthetic turf sports court hosts basketball and soccer games; when school facilities weren’t available during coronavirus restrictions, the team practiced on the home field.

Surrounds enhanced the existing patio, outdoor kitchen and fire pit with new lighting. Plantings include Arkansas blue star, St. John’s Wort and a mix of ornamental grasses. Pennsylvania bluestone steps lead to the sports court, which is screened from the pool by native grasses. Hanover Appian random pavers around the pool nicely complement those great big boulders from Tennessee.

Award: Distinction for Outdoor Living Area/Design-Build. Landscape Architecture & Installation: Howard Cohen, PLA, Surrounds, Inc., Sterling, Virginia. Photography: Judy Davis.





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