Outdoor Fireplace

I think this fireplace turned out exceptionally beautifully. Because of the age of the house as well as the design concept, a ‘patina of age’ was necessary for all of the outdoor elements.



How to achieve this with new construction? There are various ways to distress or ‘weather’ new blocks or bricks, such as tumbling or acid washing, but nothing can match the sublime beauty of genuine antique bricks. For this project, we found lovely one hundred plus year old bricks from a small supplier in Maryland. Using salvaged bricks adds to construction costs but for something like this it’s completely worth it.

What is a Pinetum, and Why Are They So (literally) Cool?

Of all the ways in which our ancestors manipulated the landscape for their benefit, surely the Pinetum (plural, Pineta) is one of the most sublime and attractive.

Think of a Pineta in the same way as you would an orchard, except planted on the geometric grid are pine trees instead of fruit or nut trees. The trick to growing and maintaining a successful Pineta is the correct selection of an appropriate Pine variety and also the correct spacing.

The Pine selected (to my way of taste) should be fairly thin-trunked in relationship to its overall height. In our area, Limber Pine, Lodgepole Pine, and especially Loblolly Pine make great Pinetum. Pick one species only, and plant them far enough apart so that at maturity, the canopies healthily touch and cross without overly rubbing and crowding (which would promote disease). Pines which naturally shed their lower limbs are perfect, although some pruning needs to occur as the trees become established. Limbing up pines helps to develop a more umbrella shape to their individual form, which is exactly what we want.

Pinetum are best sited on the southern side of a property in order to maximize its benefits and catch prevailing summer breezes. A well designed Pineta creates a cool microclimate with high, filtered sunlight and a lovely carpet of pine needles below. The sound and smell in a Pineta are soothing, especially when the winds pass strongly through the branches, and the sweet fragrance of resin is prevalent.




Villa Doria Pamphili, Rome– area of the original Pinetum (G.B. Falda, Giardini de Roma, 17th Century)

Below is a ‘Pinetum-wannabe’, it’s a grove or bosco of Eastern White Pines I actually helped to plant when I was a lad. I don’t think Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine) make the best variety for Pineta because they are strongly whorled trees (branches grow in rings) and their enormous girth over time, these trees are easily 2-3 feet in diameter. Nevertheless, if the property management would commit to clearing out all of the dead or fading lower branches I think it would help immeasurably. By limbing up you lighten and open up what could otherwise be felt as dark and brooding, and the trunks themselves begin to resemble the columns of a high building, say a cathedral.

Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus

Massive Image Post

Keeping up with social media and greeneyedesign’s other pages around the Internet, sometimes updates and posts here become neglected. To change all that, here are some recent drawings and work:

As always, click the image to embiggen

Another client in Great Falls:

A commercial space in McLean, VA:

This is something to pin up and show clients how the design is developing, below are the finished sheets:


Virginia Hospital Center

Several months ago I began discussing with The Virginia Hospital Center the possibility of designing several planting areas scattered around the hospital grounds, difficult, high traffic or neglected areas of opportunity. During the course of those conversations we were offered a fabulous opportunity: Develop & design a new outdoor space at the confluence of three major structures: Between the main hospital building & the Women & Infants health center and above the subterranean Radiation Oncology suites.

click images to embiggen

It is the Oncology Department which is the driving factor in this project;  a new,  state-of-the-art Linear Accelerator (pdf file) and its encompassing support suites are to be built below the space, resulting in a seven million dollar major engineering and architectural change to the facility.

To date, the space seen above has over time become a bit of a catchall in terms of engineering solutions– by that I mean, the outdoor environment has been utilized primarily as a repository and support system for the existing radiation suites below.

Here we see the cooling units for the Cyberknife® suite and supporting equipment. Obviously maintaining optimal temperatures is critical with multimillion dollar equipment, and this space represented the nearest, most cost-effective location.

The raised planter in the foreground is an integral part of the radiation shielding assembly, which consists of several feet of reinforced concrete, lead lining, brick, and of course the several feet of earth inside the planter. The planter’s shape reflects the radiation oncology suite below ground.

A space was opened up at ground level in order to crane in various pieces of heavy, precious medical equipment, and a skylight was seen as a beneficial solution in case repairs or replacements ever had to be made in the future. Unfortunately, it’s been plagued with leaks and has been quite a liability overall.

This much taller planter is part of another suite’s shielding assembly, and again the brick and earth are absolutely critical in terms of radiation abatement. Removing this planter would result in hundreds of thousands of dollars being incurred in additional lead shielding and the structural support required to bear the additional load (around forty additional tons on this small footprint).

Stowmwater runoff is dealt with inefficiently, as a problem to be moved as quickly as possible away from the space.

It strains credulity, but a stairwell (over on the left) pops up into the space as well, a mandatory fire safety element the need for which thankfully will be eliminated with the new construction.

An abandoned door into the space will be removed with the construction, but what of this narrow ‘hallway’? A recent awning removal reveals stained brick which adds to the feeling of disjointed uneasiness.

As patients/visitors drive in, this is what they see from curbside.

Conclusions: This is a fabulous area, rich with the patina of age and full of unique design challenges. In my next post, I will start to lay out our design process, our goals, and how we will achieve them.


Fairfax Country Club

We were recently engaged to do the design, installation, and maintenance for several lovely massive pots flanking the front entrance to The Country Club of Fairfax. These are combinations of pussy willow, curly willow, Redtwig Dogwood, dried hydrangea blossoms, and Virginia Juniper, along with Southern Magnolia tips. They are quite large (the larger containers have an overall height now of about 8′-9′) and now really frame the entrance well. Cheers!

click images to embiggen

Client Appreciation For The Holidays

Each year I like to send out a gift to our clients, as a way of saying thanks for their business and as a way of expressing my appreciation for their trust in allowing me to shape their home or business spaces. For several years I have been aware of a stockpile of vintage mason jars in our basement– the previous owner of our house was an ardent canner and ran a huge veggie garden in our backyard. This year I brought up a bunch, cleaned & sterilized them, and now we’re using them to ship ridiculously tasty (if I do say so myself) home made granola. The recipe is a riff off of a nice one by Alton Brown. Whereas Alton calls for vegetable oil, we’re using unprocessed coconut oil, which imparts wonderful flavor to the mix. We’re also adding:


Dried fruit (apple, pineapple, plums, currants, raisins)

Sunflower seeds (unsalted, roasted)

inside the work, clients, & life @greeneyedesign