“Show, don’t tell,” is advice often given to writers, but landscape designer Andrew Grossman also follows the philosophy when working with his clients.
Based in Seekonk, Massachusetts, Grossman is the principal of his and he has turned his home into a collection of display gardens for potential clients to observe his work.
He provides consultation, design and installation services to residents throughout New England. Grossman has always had a passion for gardening, and while attending Bennington College in Vermont he did garden maintenance work to earn money.
After his career in dance and choreography in New York had run its course, Grossman began creating landscapes unique to his clients’ tastes.
In 1998, he bought a renovated Cape Cod-style house where the orientation had been changed so that the front was now the back. Grossman chose the home because of its proximity to the Martin Wildlife Refuge and Runnins River.
Comprising slightly less than an acre of land, the property features five different display gardens that Grossman has created and cares for himself.
The first garden he created is called the Blue & White Garden and features blue and white azaleas, tree peonies, perennials, spring bulbs and flowering shrubs. This plethora of plants surrounds a 10-by-20-foot lily pond.
The back door of the house leads to the garden, but Grossman’s second display garden, the Checkerboard Patio, is between the pond and house. The checkerboard was created by alternating stone pavers with squares of lemon thyme.
“Geometric makes sense up against a house,” he told . “I don’t really like garden beds that look like they fell out of the sky. Shapes should not be arbitrary. There should be a reason for them to be there. The checkboard blurs the line between them and is a good geometric transition between the house and the gardens.”
Grossman believes in the power of color and has a “hot” garden, which contains red, orange, yellow and magenta flowers. It flanks one side of the checkerboard garden.
The Cottage Garden can be found in the front of Grossman’s house. The garden has intersecting gravel paths that lead to an arched trellis covered in climbing roses and clematis. Rectangular beds enclosed by fence posts and hemp rope contain a variety of roses, irises, lilies, asters, geraniums and phlox.
He selects his plants so that they have long blooming periods and prefers to mass plants together.
“It’s not about one plant looking good,” Grossman said. “Everything has to look good and deliver a visual experience. One hydrangea in bloom is just one hydrangea in bloom. If you have 15 or so in bloom, you have a showstopper. Unless I frame a doorway or a trellis, I never use just one plant.”
The last two display gardens Grossman has are a cutting garden and farm pond. The farm pond is farther from the house and is home to many wetland plants such as hostas, rodgersia and yellow flag iris.
A gazebo located on the edge of the pond contains seating that looks out over the gardens and the house.
“The farm pond is my personal riff on Giverny,” Grossman said, crediting his trip to Claude Monet’s gardens in France as inspiration.
While Grossman’s own garden requires work and care, he often designs clients’ landscapes with flowering shrubs, as they require less maintenance than some perennials.
There are two things that he does not include in his own gardens and those are vegetables and fussy plants.
“I can buy fresh tomatoes,” he said. “But I can’t buy beautiful dahlia flowers like the ones I grow. I am not a farmer; I love to grow things for the beauty.”
Grossman doesn’t tolerate plants that are extremely needy and has given up trying to grow delphiniums after several failures.
Grossman welcomes clients to visit his display gardens by appointment during the growing season and also allows occasional tours.
Although he designed the garden, Grossman finds it has a mind of its own.
“At this point, I feel more a curator than a designer in this garden,” he said. “I edit as it grows.”