A Green Desire
Chad and Bonnie Frost create an old-world landscape, which serves as a lush, nurturing backdrop for their modern romance.
Just over five years ago, Bonnie Whitney was working for Coldwater Creek, the clothing retailer, as a designer. She had grown up in Duxbury, been married, had a son, lived near the beach in California, and found herself transplanted back near her New England roots. At the same time, Chad Frost, a father of three children, was working non-stop as his Duxbury landscape business, Hedges, was in ever-increasing demand while he deftly transformed the exterior spaces of some of the most beautiful homes in the area. Through a serendipitous connection, the two met, dated, married, and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”
History indeed; as one of many compatibilities the couple share is their love for anything with a good patina. That, and the natural world, which when combined make for an old-world charm that sets the stage for their romance, their home and their respective businesses. Bonnie, now surnamed Frost, established a reputation in the Duxbury area for unique and timeless container gardens, which she would create seasonally for a growing list of clients. The burgeoning business experienced a natural progression, which led to opening Frost & Found, a retail florist shop in a charming former train ticket office in the section of Duxbury known as Millbrook Station. The small, historic building provides the perfect backdrop for Bonnie’s signature collection of antique vessels that she re-purposes with exquisite bouquets, unexpected container plantings and collections of ephemera, shells, rocks, nests and almost anything that might otherwise be passed over by anyone else.
At their home, Bonnie and Chad have transformed what was previously an uninspired one-acre lot, deep in the woods of Duxbury. The historic home, built in 1814, is nestled behind a six-foot privet hedge, installed by Chad, which runs along both street sides of the corner parcel, giving the home a manicured frame evocative of many thoughtfully landscaped homes. With the exception of a large sugar maple in the backyard, everything else on the property has been imagined by the couple and primarily installed and maintained by Chad and his crew. Chad explains the unique success his company has experienced, “There are so many classic homes in this town, with very traditional landscapes,” he says. “I mixed it up a bit and suggested to my clients that they not tightly manicure the miniature boxwood that lined the walkway to their front door. Letting the plantings grow a bit gives the landscape a bit more personality and movement.” Confirming his unconventional approach, it didn’t take long for neighbors of his clients to suddenly have their own boxwoods sporting longer, more tousled manes.
For the Frosts, the approach to their home starts with an expansive square car court, thick with pea stone and embraced by the six-foot high privet. Two black English planters, spilling over with a variety of seasonal annuals and vines, flank the opening in the hedge to reveal a softly curved path to the side of the home. Standing at attention along the path are six grafted lilac bushes, pruned as topiaries, but sporting Chad’s signature coifs. Bonnie recalls that six-foot tall specimens created quite the buzz this past May as visitors stopped by. “We were on the Garden Tour this year, and it was the week the lilacs were blooming. It was really magnificent,” she says.
An antique barn adjacent to the home, with a bluestone courtyard filling the space between, anchors the outdoor space. The barn is filled with treasures the two collect on their endless stops at yard sales, estate sales and visits to antique dealers across the northeast. “Before I opened my store, interior designers would schedule time to come here and source for their projects,” Bonnie explains, “so what is here is always changing.” Antique bottles, trugs, planters, wooden boxes, crockery and defunct light fixtures fill the shelves and hang from the ceiling and walls. Pine tables and cabinets are casually arranged with leaded glass terrariums, displaying birds’ nests, honeycombs, dried Hydrangea blossoms and other found elements.
The patio features an over-sized weathered teak dining table with a market umbrella providing shade for up to 10 diners. A four-foot-long tin planter is packed with succulents, pea stone, driftwood, and a bit of sparkle from some collected beach glass.
The bluestone patio was built by Chad and his team; one of the more remarkable details includes the 10-inch expanse of rock and stone that extends from the exterior wall of the home to meet the bluestone pavers, thus creating a dry-well drainage for runoff from the home’s roof.
Freestanding planters as well as collections of small tabletop antique vessels are planted with annuals, small shrubs and a variety of almost anything that strikes Bonnie’s creative spirit. But what may have been a centerpiece for one of the couple’s many al fresco meals may not be there for lunch the next day. “I am constantly selling almost everything you see to my clients,” Bonnie explains with a smile. “Sometimes it is a problem because when I look around I realize I’ve emptied my own home. But I can’t sell this,” she says as she points to a chunk of some sort of exotic-looking stone/mineral nestled into the succulent planter. “My son gave me this for Mother’s Day, and said, ‘Mom, please don’t sell it.’”
The screened porch on one side of the patio also sees a lot of turnover. On one visit to the couple’s home a three-foot antique wooden trug was planted with orchids of all sizes, shapes and colors with rolling hills of lush moss creating nooks and crannies for a variety of whimsical items of interest.
Behind the home, the couple cleared the overgrown snarl of trees, shrubs, and invasive species that had been allowed to consume the majority of the property. Over the past five years they have created a level expanse that includes an English glass conservatory, a stone statuary fountain, a raised-bed vegetable garden, a koi pond and a casual seating area with a sunken fire pit. The majestic sugar maple that soars to over 50 feet brings a sense of history with its massive gnarled trunk, as well as some much needed shade with its canopy providing serene comfort in the sensitively planned space.
Individually the couple both lived a full life before their respective journeys intersected. Now, this serendipitous coming together of family, history, and garden has created a world that is cloaked in tranquil green, and rooted in deep love.
Julie Craven Wagner is the editor of Cape Cod GARDEN.