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Hardscape Solutions: A slice of Italy in Montana

July 13, 2020 -  By

Company: Blanchford Landscape Group
Location: Virginia City, Mont.

The client intended to bring the style and feel of Italy to Montana, and also wanted a formal front garden and an informal terrace, with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains.

“It’s not where you might think to put a villa,” says CEO Andy Blanchford, noting the owner’s father bought the property in the 1970s to serve as a hunting lodge. Blanchford’s design includes all-natural materials to give the space a rustic feel, woolly thyme in the terrace joints and an Italian-style fountain.

The true test was the location of the job site. It was two hours from the company’s headquarters, so crews worked 12-hour days. The site sits at an elevation of about 7,500 feet, and crews also had to contend with snow and snow cover in late spring and early fall.

“About 50 percent of the distance is on dirt roads,” Blanchford says. “You can’t bring in heavy trucks, only short trucks or smaller trucks.”

Crews sourced and spaded the Douglas firs used in the landscape design from the property. Some of the columnar Aspen trees, which mimic Tuscany’s Cypress trees, have struggled. Blanchford says they replace a few every year.

This project earned Blanchford Landscape Group a 2019 Gold Award from the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Award of Excellence program.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

The formal parterre garden in the front of the house includes a fountain, natural stone paths, benches and formal plantings.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

A stone patio in the back of the home includes details such as thyme in the terrace joints, slab sandstone stairs, a gas fire pit, a spa with an infinity edge, mossy boulder retaining walls and native meadows.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

The parterre garden includes Italian details such as a classic fountain, cut stone path, benches, formal planting and rustic containers.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

Rear terrace stairs are framed by a boulder retaining wall. Crews used a custom seed mix to replant disturbed native meadow on the slope below.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

Rustic clay containers with colorful plantings in an old mining cart connect to the area’s gold mining history.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

The terrace with views of the mountains is ideal for outdoor dining. Lichen-covered boulders create a sense of enclosure under the big sky.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

The outdoor space includes a gas fire pit with custom fire logs. Seat boulders on the far side of the fire pit create overflow seating for large gatherings.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

The client desired unobstructed 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

An alfresco dining area on the terrace: Natural accents such as lichen-covered boulders create a gentle grade transition with the slab stone stairs. Container plantings and thyme in the patio joints add color and softness to the expansive hardscape.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

Topiary pines in containers frame the formal front entry along with columnar junipers and container bowls on top of the entry columns. Cast Lighting’s low-voltage lighting under the column caps accents the masonry at night.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

The Italian-style fountain connects to a sitting area. Ornamental grasses give a sense of enclosure to the space.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

The 24-foot-long stone slab steps to the right create free to access the to the upper terrace and the master suite.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

A crew installs the stone slab stairs.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

The completed stone slab stairs are shown here.

Hardscape project in Montana (Photo: Saul Creative)

Photo: Saul Creative

Crews plant the parterre garden. Blanchford estimates crews hauled about 120 tons of stone, 300 cubic yards of topsoil and 100 cubic yards of mulch. Crew used a forklift to bring heavy materials onto the parterre garden.

Christina Herrick

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