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In last week’s post we talked about what are some of the recent trends in Residential Landscape Design, both nationally and here in Mid-Michigan.

Landscape Design, in its most basic terms, is the act of blending a program with the existing conditions of a particular site.  This is true whether you are doing a master plan for a college campus, laying out a housing subdivision, or designing a residential landscape.

“Program” refers to who is going to be using the site and how they are going to be using it.  “Existing conditions” refers to man-made things like buildings and roads, but also natural conditions like soil type, sun orientation, slope, existing vegetation, distant views, water run-off, etc.

Some of the best and most memorable examples of Landscape 
Design are created when a challenge or “problem” presented by an existing natural condition is met in an elegant manner.

Such is the case with Dahlia Hill.

Newly Terraced Dahlia Hill

For those of you who don’t know, Dahlia Hill is a beautiful garden here in Midland that is maintained by volunteers and open to the public free of charge.  As its name implies, it sits on a hill at the corner of Main Street and Orchard, across from Emerson Park.  It is the product of the vision and hard work of Charles Breed, a local artist who founded and runs the Dahlia Hill Society, and whose working studio sits at the top of the Hill.

Dahlia Hill began in 1992 when Charles Breed planted some Dahlias on the hillside outside of his studio.  His motivation at the time was simply his love of this beautiful and unique plant.  Over the years more Dahlias were planted every year on the hillside as a growing team of volunteers became involved.

Due to the steeply sloping site, erosion was always a big problem.  Every year a lot of work was required just to keep enough topsoil on the slope to plant the Dahlias.  Some years of heavy rain the plants would be washed out of the ground.  Also, there were no defined paths to handle the traffic from the growing numbers of visitors.

To address these issues, as well as his desire to expand on his vision for Dahlia Hill, Charles Breed developed an elegant master plan that called for terracing the site.  After refining his plan and raising funds, in 2008 he chose Reder Landscaping and our talented crews of landscape craftsmen and stonemasons to help bring his plan to life.

Today Dahlia Hill is composed of eight terraces created by a series of natural stone walls, steps and walkways. Each year volunteers plant over three thousand Dahlias representing two hundred fifty varieties. Featured in the garden are four large cast aluminum sculptures created by Charles Breed representing the cycles of life and the seasons. Also at the top of the Hill are two raised planters – one a donor circle and the other a memorial circle.

Dahlia Hill is a wonderful place to visit in any of the four seasons. However, during the Summer and Fall when the Dahlias are in bloom, it is spectacular and rivals any garden anywhere. It is a “must see” if you live in the Midland area and appreciate beautiful landscapes.