Chuck Hess: An Award-Winning Designer and One Glorious Landscape

– Posted in: Garden Design


Over 2 months ago, I received a notice about the Gold Awards given to 4 landscape designers/ and or design companies for this year’s American Professional Landscape Designer (APLD) Awards.

As I perused over the names and projects, my eyes were drawn to:

Charles Hess, Lansdale, PA, won THREE Gold awards, two in the Residential category and one in the Specialty Projects category.


Although my focus is on naturalistic plantings and designs, when I laid eyes on what Chuck had created on this Bryn Mawr estate, I felt compelled to share it with you.


Unfortunately because of my wild traveling and work schedule this summer, I didn’t have time to interview Chuck; but he sent on plenty of information that will offer you a robust understanding of the ‘whys’ and ‘whats’ of this outstanding project.*

*Please see PDF at end of article.


Chuck’s design and his use of stone work are both elegant and sumptuous.


For so many of us gardeners who are focused on plantings themselves, we tend to forget that the bones of a garden is the first step that we need to pay attention to when creating our own personal paradise.


Here is a description of the garden:

“The design of this residential property incorporates an all new exterior program to compliment the newly constructed estate home. Traditional materials are used with modern twists, to create a property that appears timeless but also lively. A diverse selection of plant material creates rich tapestries for the outdoor rooms placed into the landscape.

Plantings at the front of the home are traditional in form to create a tailored appearance, featuring a greater reliance on evergreen material for four season structure. Containers are used here to provide seasonal color, and are changed out with seasonally appropriate materials throughout the year.”


“In back areas where outdoor living is more frequent, plantings were selected to provide long periods of sequential bloom, and to provide a looser, textured character. Flowering Cherry trees jump-start the spring season, and are followed by Winter King Hawthorns, Dogwoods, and Crape Myrtles. Improved varieties of Hydrangea such as Endless Summer® and ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ offer prolonged seasons of bloom. Full sun area blends of perennials include Montauk Daisy, Salvia, Iris, Nepeta, Perovskia, Amsonia, and Achillea. ”






“Shadier spots incorporate blends of Astilbe, several different varieties of Heuchera, variegated Solomon’s Seal, Hakone Grass, and Hellebore. Herbaceous foliage texture and color plays an important role through these areas, augmenting the garden’s appearance during times when plants are out of bloom. A vegetable garden was also provided per the client’s wishes, to provide fresh produce for the family during the growing season.”










*Written Brief of Bryn Mawr, Pa garden designed by Chuck Hess

1. This residential project is located in USDA Hardiness zone 7-A.

2. A historic residence located on this site had fallen into disrepair to the point of being unsalvageable. The client made the difficult decision of removing the structure completely in order to create habitable dwelling space on the site. Deed restrictions limited the availability of building sites and impervious coverage. Most of the site was mown lawn, and only a few large trees remained.

3. The client needed a home and grounds suitable for raising their young family. Their preferences included amply-sized outdoor recreation spaces for children play areas, as well as purpose-built spaces for outdoor entertaining. Their favoured style involved less formal structure, with the incorporation of layers of loose plantings bordering spaces.

4. The intent of the design was to meet as many of the client’s program requirements as feasible while creating a beautiful garden which the users would move through and interact with.

5. The new dwelling was positioned to take advantage of existing views, to establish privacy from neighbours, and to preserve important natural features. Distinct areas were created outside the new home for entertaining and gathering, including a formal arrival motor=court, the main terrace with outdoor kitchen, a soccer field for the client’s children, and a Koi pond. Centred on the new swimming pool are other new features such as a spa, a fire pit, and a separate pool house structure. The backdrop for all spaces includes many different types of plants, which have been selected and used in specific combinations to provide a succession of seasonal bloom and attractive textures. Remnants of the former home on site were preserved where feasible, such as the lower wall, Wisteria arbour, and grand stairway. An existing rock outcrop was planted as a garden feature, with its own unique palette of plantings.

6. Portions of the existing historic structure’s garden were retained and associated with the garden spaces. The pergola and retaining wall bordering the main terrace spaces were refurbished, with some materials being replaced to match the new home’s vernacular. Storm-water runoff was all retained and infiltrated back into the ground on site. A vegetable garden was created since the client’s eco-friendly ambitions included raising their own household vegetables and culinary herbs.

7. The role of the designer included all landscape design services. After conducting an initial site inventory and assisting with the positioning of the new home on the site, a master plan was created which addressed all program elements required by the client. Construction documents were prepared to guide contractor work. Planting plans which delineated all plant species, sizes, and locations were developed. The significant trees were selected by the designer at nearby nurseries. On-site supervision of plant installation assured the plans were followed closely. Follow up with the maintenance contractor was critical, and ensured the garden’s elaborate appearance was preserved. If you want a fabulous garden just like the one shown, you may want to calculate how much equity you have in your home which can help fund the project!

To receive a copy of the plant list for this award-winning garden, click on this link:


On another note: if you haven’t heard yet, My 1000 FREE Digging Deep Book and Course Giveaway is open. To receive your free copy and to sign up for my course (and gain immediate access), click on HERE.

This is a one time only offer that is selling out quickly! So take advantage of it immediately and share the link with family and friends so that they can get a free copy of Digging Deep and take the 3 part online course with you!!

As always, if you enjoyed this article, please share with friends and colleagues on social media. It’s good karma to share things that inspire you with others in the world. With love, Fran

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at

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Fran Sorin
18 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Lee@A GUide to Northeastern Gardening October 1, 2016, 4:13 pm

Absolutely stunning! The designer’s use of color and texture along with various hardscape elements creates a garden which has something to offer every day of the year. Thank you for sharing this wonderful creation!

Daniel Tyrrell October 2, 2016, 7:52 pm

Lovely insight into a well designed garden.

Fran Sorin October 3, 2016, 9:44 am

Daniel Tyrrell,

Am glad you enjoyed! I am mesmerized by his use of stone and how prolific he was with it! Fran

Fran Sorin October 3, 2016, 9:46 am


Thanks for your comment. It was dicey posting this because so many of our readers are much more into the New Wave/natural style of gardening. I agree with you that his plant palette is lovely…as is his prolific use of stone. Fran

Paul Grant October 12, 2016, 10:17 am

This creation is perfect and very elegant. A well designed garden indeed. Thanks for sharing this Fran!

Rob Bond October 12, 2016, 8:47 pm

The image with the two ponds on either side with the bridge is an absolute beauty. its looks even better in the night time

Outdoor Furniture October 16, 2016, 10:16 pm

Spectacular, their gardens look beautiful and obviously a lot of though went in to how they were laid out. I like the advice that the first step is to start with the bones of the garden to get that desired outdoor setting.

Fran Sorin December 23, 2016, 6:52 am

Thanks for filling us in on that piece of information. It is a stunning image. Wishing you a magical holiday season. Fran

Tina Martino May 13, 2017, 11:16 pm

That is some beautiful Landscaping! What an amazing job he does making them look so inviting and almost too beautiful to be true!

Fran Sorin May 14, 2017, 9:38 pm

So true Tina. Chuck did an incredible job. For any gardener who loves his design, you can easily incorporate some of his elements into your own garden. That is the fun of being inspired by someone’s work. Hope you have a great spring. Fran

Bowden July 18, 2017, 3:22 am

wow, so beautiful garden. wITH ME GARDENING IS MY LIFE, You must work very hard to have this landscape 🙂

Robbie - Resin Bonded Surface August 14, 2017, 11:25 am

Every single photograph is absolutely stunning. I love his use of stone and colour and that water feature is just beautiful. Thank you for sharing

Fran Sorin August 15, 2017, 7:16 am

Hey Robbie,
Am glad you enjoyed. All photographs came directly from Chuck Hess’ photographer. Fran

Fran Sorin August 15, 2017, 7:26 am

How right you are that you have to work VERY hard to maintain a garden like this. But regardless of maintenance, you can still learn a great deal by studying photos of gardens or visiting gardens that inspire you. Fran

Laura Bennett September 23, 2017, 6:42 am

Wow! Chuck is amazing. Thank you Fran. I have my own backyard and love landscaping too. Keep up your good work.

Fran Sorin December 30, 2017, 11:43 pm

Hey Laura-
Sorry for the delay in responding. Yes, Chuck is in an incredibly talented designer. I love being inspired by others whose work I admire. Have a wonderful New Year. Fran

scotty hill September 10, 2018, 5:40 am

Thank you so much for sharing this with us Fran, it is an absolutely amazing creation. Really inspirational and well put together. I wish I had a space like this to reflect in!

martha November 15, 2018, 11:38 am

I love your work Fran. I really love gardening and I have one garden too. You are really working hard to make it beautiful.

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