April 2011

His Heaven on Earth

Cape Cod Life  /  April 2011 / , , ,

Writer: Mary Grauerholz / Photographer: Frank Foster and Stacey Hedman 

Award-winning Cape Cod landscape designer Paul Miskovsky’s own garden is mystical and magical any time of the day—or night.

Paul Miskovsky’s gardens

Cascading rock waterfalls are just one of the many attention-getting features this garden showcases. Photo by Frank Foster

Paul Miskovsky has planted a garden on a cliff, set another on an island in a pond, and created several under the vast roof of the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston. But of his many horticultural designs, there may be none more enchanting than that which surrounds his own Falmouth home.

We are in Miskovsky’s backyard on a hillside that edges conservation land, eyeing below a lush scene of a waterfall surrounded by a profusion of plants. Miskovsky, owner of Miskovsky Landscaping in Falmouth, and his fiancée, Eva Lemoine, worked for three years on the garden, which begins in the front of their buttermilk-yellow contemporary colonial and stretches around both sides to fill the backyard. Tonight, special lighting will transform the entire setting into a mystical wonderland.

Paul Miskovsky’s gardens

Miskovsky’s choice of lush, fanning plants give way to a tropical flair. Photo by Frank Foster

The property has a variety of features, including several patio settings, but Miskovsky thinks of it as a single garden. This pocket of nature means everything to the landscape designer. “Living with this garden is a very fulfilling lifestyle,” he says. “It’s the visual, the color, the sound, the interest through the seasons.”

Miskovsky and Lemoine moved to the Falmouth property in 2002 and dug into the landscape project. It was memorable, requiring hundreds of yards of topsoil and compost. “We were buying it by the trailer load from Maine,” Miskovsky recalls, shaking his head at the memory. Over those three years, the couple turned a flat, hard surface of gravel peppered with a few oak trees into a horticultural beauty with several gradations and different views every few steps.

Pools of cool quiet are interwoven with imaginative arrangements and sculpture that draw your attention. Scents waft from flowers and sage. Trees and grasses rustle in the wind, while water fountains and the backyard waterfall provide a soothing backdrop sound. Colors abound. Some of the plants are free-form and others are shaped, such as the spidery, deep green European larch, a new variety.

Paul Miskovsky’s gardens

A sculpture of three dancing ladies adds some quirkiness to the landscape. Photo by Stacey Hedman

Miskovsky has won top awards at the New England Spring Flower Show in Boston. He is a trustee of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, which produces the annual show. But designing the property that he and Lemoine see and live in every day was a very different experience—and not easy. “This garden is really formal-informal,” Miskovsky says. “There are games I play here. I played a lot of horticultural tricks, getting it all to look like it should.”

Paul Miskovsky’s gardens

A garden fairy water feature. Photo by Stacey Hedman

At either side of the front door, centered in the columned front portico, are big pots of pom-pom topiaries that provide a touch of formality. Just off the porch are concrete planters that he and Lemoine found and filled with trailing ivy that circles a single Cordyline, a dramatic focal point plant with purple-red leaves and a recent introduction in the plant world. Lemoine is a very important part of the process. As Miskovsky says, “She’s the one who takes care of the garden.”

Miskovsky is well aware of the importance of people in his life. His father, a mechanic, died when he was 10 and Miskovsky began taking any work he could get—yard care, clamming, repairing machinery—to help support the family. It is a touching story of a young boy rising to the challenge of a household where children had to help provide. Miskovsky doesn’t think that the fact he’s been working since age 10 says anything about his character. He shrugs, saying simply, “Everybody’s got a story.”

Miskovsky hunts out new plants the way some people scour the earth for rare antiques. He’s attracted to the unusual, unknown, and difficult-to-grow. He found the Cordyline at the 2007 Chelsea Flower Show in London. “It was brand new,” he recalls. In another flower grouping, alongside blue salvia, orange Leonotis leonurus, and pink spiderwort, are Martha’s Vineyard shrub roses. “They’re not produced anymore,” Miskovsky says, pointing to the soft pink roses. The leonurus is a native of Africa and usually grown in California, Hawaii, and Australia.

This says a lot about Miskovsky. If he likes a plant, he puts enough sweat and love into its welfare to assure its survival. “You do the best you can for them, and hopefully they do their best for you,” he says.

Paul Miskovsky’s gardens

A large bamboo terrace provides the perfect shady sport to relax and enjoy the wonder of this garden. Photo by Stacey Hedman

The real horticultural surprise is in the back of the house. There are several spaces here, some offering privacy and others perfect for gathering groups of friends and family. Three patios are set with tables and chairs, all with a view of the waterfall, which is center stage. Nearby a granite walkway with a locust banister leads to a space that feels like a secret, furnished with a table and chairs under a bamboo cover that sprouts clematis.

Eyes always turn to the waterfall. Water rushes over flat Maine granite stones, creating a pleasant experience for the eyes, ears, and soul. There is no pond at the bottom— Miskovsky buried pumps and a bio-filter to create the rushing water. But it looks completely natural.

Paul Miskovsky’s gardens

The waterfall leads to a pond where lily pads float. Photo by Stacey Hedman

Another space high on the hillside is cleared for a tent and picnic table. Nearby is a little enclosure with a bamboo roof and locust frame. It is a private space for Miskovsky’s nine-year-old son. “This is his fort,” he says. On the other side of the house is a shed like no other. The roof is planted with spiky variegated yucca, butterfly weed, verbena, and ferns, and hearty English ivy trails down the sides.

Sitting at his favorite patio, Miskovsky gazes at a hefty birdhouse—big and roomy, purple martin size—sitting on a cedar pole. The late Allen Haskell, a renowned horticulturist from New Bedford and Miskovsky’s mentor, gave it to him. “It weighs 200 pounds,” Miskovsky says. “It took four men to get it up there and a tele-handler.”

Miskovsky is very comfortable here; he is home, after all. “I’m very lucky,” he says as his eyes sweep over the view. “It’s a nice little garden.”

To contact Paul Miskovsky, go to www.miskovskylandscape.com.

Mary Grauerholz is communications manager of the Cape Cod Foundation and a freelance writer.

Mary Grauerholz

Hatchville resident Mary Grauerholz is a former Cape Cod LIFE editor and a contributor to Cape Cod Life Publications. Some of Mary’s many articles have included a study of wild orchids that can be found on the Cape and Islands and a history piece on Donald MacMillan—the man for whom MacMillan Pier in Provincetown is named.