Nature’s Embrace

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Creative greenscaping transforms Lee’s Summit lakeside home into a serene sanctuary.

Story by Rachael Hedgcoth   |   Photos courtesy of Rosehill Gardens

Envision a backyard that encourages getting lost in Mother Nature’s simple splendor.

Think tranquil lake views, whispering breezes, sun-dappled groundcover and splashes of perennial color. Imagine rushing sounds of trickling currents, soft insect  chirrups, hidden stone terraces and woodsy scents drifting on the breeze.

This is exactly what Gary Weidenbach, landscape designer, BSLA, and owner of Kansas City, Mo.,-based Rosehill Gardens, masterfully created at one Lee’s Summit, Mo., residence.




‘Sounds like Disney World’

Weidenbach’s connection to the Woodland Shores residence dates back to 2004 when the home was created, designed and copywrited by prominent Kansas City builder/developer Jim Riffe. Riffe wanted to create a home that would capitalize on the lake and set the tone for the development. Talented Boulder, Colo.,-based designer Jim VanderVorste partnered in the home’s unique design in collaboration with esteemed local architect Scott Bickford of Bickford + Company.

Being set on a lush lake lot, the home was designed to blur the distinction between the interior and outdoors. Riffe enlisted the landscaping talents of Weidenbach to achieve this goal and again in 2005 to add curb appeal to the home’s front elevation.

The home was tapped as a Kansas City Parade of Homes entry in 2005 and was also showcased that same year in the heavily attended Dream Factory Tour, during which one person per minute reportedly toured the home.

Wayne and Shirley Haub were among the masses who walked through the home during the Dream Factory Tour. They fell instantly in love with the rustic, authentic Colorado style of the two-story home that overlooks Prairie Lee Lake in Lee’s Summit.

The couple purchased the home and two adjoining lots and began contemplating how they might transform their sizable property into a private wooded sanctuary.

The Haubs turned to Weidenbach and his thorough understanding of the lot for direction on how to connect the front landscaping with the rest of the property.

While Weidenbach was eager to tackle the project, the challenges that lay ahead were clear and tangible.

Construction was still ongoing in the area and much of the land was bare dirt, patchy grass and untamed trees. Additionally, existing trees had been compromised and the rugged, sloping lot presented myriad logistical challenges.

But perhaps the project’s most formidable element was the backyard’s steep 100-foot drop to the lake below.

However, in every challenge lies opportunity, and Weidenbach devised an incredible master plan that he felt worthy of the uncommon lot.

“I presented the plan and the response I got from the client was, ‘It sounds like Disney World; let’s do it.’”



A Master Plan

Where a rough, earthy canvas once sat awaiting new life, a cascading panorama of flora, fauna, lake water and shaded pathways now merge in a stunning celebration of all things nature-inspired.

Behind the house, a brook appears to bubble from under the home’s foundation and trickles down a winding course, meandering through the sloping terrain toward the lake and the expansive private teak wood dock.

The master design plan encompassed a large 8-by-15-foot koi fish pond near the house, multiple staggered stone terraces for Adirondack chairs, stone retaining walls, a flagstone path and a wooden staircase.

Additionally, more than 100 feet of divergent streams ultimately fuse together in a picturesque waterfall that splashes over weathered limestone boulders into Prairie Lee Lake.

“The whole idea of the water feature was to make it seem like a Colorado-style stream flowing from under the house all the way down to the lake,” says Weidenbach.

The entire project employs a two-pump system that incorporates recirculated and filtered lake water throughout the water features, the irrigation system and the koi pond, making this project a truly conservational effort.

Roughly 200 evergreen trees, 300 deciduous trees, 1,500 shrubs and over 2,000 perennials have been installed to bring a genuine woodland effect to the softscaping.

“There are three grass terraces for relaxing and entertaining that overlook the lake,” says Weidenbach. “The landscape style itself is very natural, but also ties back to the architectural lodge look.”

Weidenbach says the project has taken on a life of its own and that the production is ever-changing.

“Account managers Jennifer Slusher and Jim Cardoza maintain this project weekly and, seasonally, we install approximately 5,000 annuals, pansies and mums and 2,000 fall bulbs,” says Weidenbach. “It is hard to find a client who has the same passion for landscape as we do, but when it happens, it sure makes our job fun.”




Colorado Comfort

The Haub family is tight-knit; their daughter, son-in-law and grandkids reside in a house they built on the next lot over.

Weidenbach artfully created winding crushed limestone paths between the two homes that lead to a shared stone terrace where a fire pit and cut-stone picnic table sit beneath a canopy of trees.

Keeping watch nearby is an ornate family of owls carved into a 10-foot-tall trunk of an old oak tree that had to be cut down for health reasons. The beautiful owl sculpture commemorates a family of owls that once nested in the tree in its more vibrant days.

While Wayne and Shirley Haub revel in the peace and tranquility of their secluded leafy retreat, Weidenbach enjoys observing the continued evolution of this setting so reminiscent of a mountain getaway.

He still oversees the weekly maintenance, corrective pruning and planting of such seasonal gems as trailing snapdragons, alyssum and calibrachoa in the spring and mums, kale and pansies in the fall, as well as a variety of potted flowers.

There are virtually no bare spots to be found among the lush landscaping that envelopes the home and serves as a safe haven for critters including squirrels, beavers and the occasional snake.

Weidenbach says the project is one of the most unique properties he has dealt with in his more than 25 years of professional landscaping in the Kansas City area.

“This residence truly offers resort living to the fullest,” says Weidenbach. “When you step on this property, you feel so comfortable. You just want to leave the world at the street.”



Landscape Designer: Rosehill Gardens

Home Builder: Riffe Homes

Home Architect: BVZ Architects

Home Architect: Bickford + Company

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