Big plans for intimate spaces

With plants, rocks, stones, fences, walls, art and more, landscape designers like Brooke Merriam turn the natural world into breathtaking beauty

By Scott Pickering
Posted 5/3/21

Brooke Merriam has learned a handful of truths in her 15 years as a landscape designer. One is to work with what you’ve got. Terrain, soil, weather, sunlight — they typically can’t …

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Big plans for intimate spaces

With plants, rocks, stones, fences, walls, art and more, landscape designers like Brooke Merriam turn the natural world into breathtaking beauty

Posted

Brooke Merriam has learned a handful of truths in her 15 years as a landscape designer. One is to work with what you’ve got. Terrain, soil, weather, sunlight — they typically can’t be changed, so make choices that fit within the elements you can’t change.

Another is to know that everything you do, will eventually change. When you build a house, you affix cement to wood, wood to plaster, plaster to paint, and most of those things don’t move or change.

When you plant living things in the ground, they change. “Everything is going to continue to grow and change,” Brooke says. “After seven years, it may be completely different than when you started.” A tree may grow large enough to cast shade on a spot that was once sunny. Some plants flourish, while others stumble along.

So know that your landscape design is not permanent; it’s an ever-changing space (like nature itself), and it will require maintenance and attention, again and again and again. “Landscapes are always evolving and changing, and I think that’s one thing people forget,” Brooke says.

Lastly — and this is the area where Brooke seems to thrive — have a long-term vision. The owner of Sunflower Designs in Bristol says you have to look at a space now, and in the future. See what it’s going to look like now, and in five years. And in some cases, it may take those five years for reality to match that vision.

A Tiverton hillside

Here, Brooke talks about a recent project she worked on, an enormous hillside landscape in Tiverton that she has been designing and revisiting for years. This project involved an older house off Main Road in Tiverton, looking out over the Sakonnet River. The owner had lived there for many years and decided to invest in and improve the landscape for the first time. Phase one was grading the property and installing the pool.

Then Sunflower Designs was brought into the project. In the beginning, there was very little true landscape design, but endless natural elements like mature trees, large rocks and original granite steps.

The first thing Brooke did was design a curving driveway entrance to the home. To do so, they needed to fashion terraced layers into the landscape, with a combination of natural and engineered stone.

The next was bringing life, ambiance and vitality throughout the property — with plantings and stonework around the pool, around the cozy fire pit, and alongside the stairs and various terraces of the property. The photos here tell the story. Design was by Sunflower Designs. The majority of the labor was by All American Masonry and Perreira Brothers.

2021 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.