Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Asian Influence Small Lot in Reserve Becomes a Soothing Haven Thanks to the Owner's Innate Design Sense

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Asian Influence Small Lot in Reserve Becomes a Soothing Haven Thanks to the Owner's Innate Design Sense

Article excerpt

There is a lesson to be learned from Ed McHugh's lovely garden in Reserve. Even if you think your garden isn't good enough to enter the Great Gardens Contest, do it.

Mr. McHugh, who had to be persuaded to enter, is a winner of the summer portion of the contest sponsored by the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Botanical Garden. He won in the small garden category -- 2,000 square feet or less.

His exquisite Asian-themed garden, constructed on an extremely sloped lot in heavy shade, is an extraordinary use of space and a great example of human ingenuity. Mr. McHugh, who is employed in engineering and maintenance at the Oakland campus of UPMC, has constructed all of the hardscape, from the pergola in front to the waterfall in the back, using repurposed materials salvaged from demolition sites.

The plants are not unusual -- perennials, ferns and hostas, with begonias, coleus and others providing fiery red contrasts. It's the way Mr. McHugh puts them together with statues and other architectural features that makes the garden special. He has an instinctual grasp of scale, which can be one of the most difficult aspects of gardening.

The front garden, for instance, looks larger than it is, and the curving walk that defines it is eye-pleasing. Holding it all together is a pergola with a Chinese flair, accented by wrought- iron inserts and an ornamental iron fence that gives the garden greater depth.

"The front of my home has a very narrow lot that always was a nightmare to me," he said. "I was never happy or able to manage to design something that was truly pleasing until this past year."

The backyard takes it up another notch. Lovely and calming during the day, the space becomes magical once darkness descends. Here the elements of fire, water and earth come together. A flaming cauldron stands in front of a pond and waterfall. A large mirror behind reflects and repeats the light of the cauldron and lanterns and adds depth to the tiny plot, which is filled with carefully selected stones, hostas, ferns and other shade-loving plants. …

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