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Seasons of Love

With the help of Maria Hickey and Associates Landscapes, the blank canvas at Kerry Kennedy’s new home has been transformed into a place for friends and family to gather and share the beauty of a creatively inspired space.

Photo by Maria Hickey

There are very few examples epitomizing everything family means than the collective understanding of the iconic Kennedy family. For Kerry Kennedy, a mother of three vibrant and sagacious daughters, and the seventh child of eleven children born to the late Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy, family is at the core of everything that fuels her work as well as her private time. 

“Gardens have always played an important part in my life, both with my family growing up, and now as a mother with my girls, as well as our large extended family,” Kennedy shares. “In Virginia, where I grew up, we had several gardens, as well as a large cutting garden, so the house was always filled with fresh flowers in almost every room.” To further illustrate the influence flowers and a connection to the garden has played in her formative years as well as today, Kennedy gestures to a gold-framed impressionistic oil painting of a vase of flowers. Yellow daisy and golden tickseed blooms spill out in an unorganized presentation, fearlessly crowning a cornflower-blue, ample-bottomed vase surrounded by a sky blue and white background of rich brush strokes. “This painting was the inspiration for this new garden,” she explains. “It has been on the walls of every home in which I have lived, so it is absolutely part of me. These are the colors I love; the blue for the sky and the water, the yellow for the sun, the white for the clouds, this is what I wanted to see.”

Kennedy purchased her new home in 2019. The welcoming gray clapboard home with green shutters which sits perched above Hyannis Port Harbor was surrounded by a typical Cape Cod forest—scrub oaks and pines, locust trees, brambles and bittersweet—affording very little open space for entertainment or enjoyment, let alone a garden. A dirt driveway ran parallel to the side of the home and consumed most of the useable space in the yard. On the other side of the driveway, an aging railroad tie retaining wall provided a bed for a variety of unremarkable annuals. And in the almost acre of space in the back of the property, a chicken coop was home to a few fowl that would become the genesis of more than a year of transformation.

“In April of 2020, we bought some chicks for Easter,” Kennedy explains. “You can’t just throw babies in with adult chickens because they won’t survive, so we kept them in a cage outside, but then some foxes came along and we lost three. There was no choice but to bring them in the house, but we didn’t have a cage inside.” Kennedy proceeds to tell the hilarious tale including the ingenious idea to confine the baby chicks to the shower, because as she says, “What harm could they possibly do? And you can just wash things down in the morning.” Unfortunately the next morning revealed the chickens’ ability to escape over the top of the shower doors where they proceeded to roost throughout the house, and created an unimaginable mess.

Kennedy called Maria Hickey, owner and founder of Maria Hickey & Associates Landscapes in Falmouth, a full-service landscape design and installation company, and asked her to come over and help her design a space for the young chickens where they could be safe, as well as out of the house. It wasn’t long before Hickey, Kennedy and Kennedy’s partner, George Vradenburg, started to discuss the endless possibilities of “what could be.” Discussions of open space for pick-up games of football, soccer, badminton and croquet led to a long, grassy expanse that quickly conjures images of familiar Kennedy faces, pant legs rolled up over tanned bare feet and arms stretched in the air to catch a spiraling football. During the excavation phase of the project, Hickey and her team unearthed a massive rock that provided the perfect sitting area for several family members at what is loosely defined as the end-zone of the playing field.

Hickey contacted David von Jess, general manager of The Stonemasons, Inc. of Westport, to discuss the transition from the backyard to an elevated level with a vegetable garden, grape arbor, and the aforementioned chicken coop. Von Jess, who was responsible for all of the hardscape on the project, constructed terraced beds from native granite and fieldstone which gave plenty of space for thorn-less rose bushes, and perennials like Digitalis, Delphinium, Salvia, Scabiosa and Oenthera. Winding stairs complete the transition between levels as yellow tulips and soft blue grape hyacinth add a touch of cheer to the early Cape Cod spring, and the rolling fog from Nantucket Sound bathes the countless roses in a special brew of salt and strength of character forged by generations of sailors and sirens of the sea.

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