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Coffin Garden, 2012-2013

Former owner:
Dunphy, E.B. Dr
Dunphy, E.B. Mrs
Leland, J.D.
Landscape designer:
Armory Architects
Physical description:
1 folder+ 20 digital images
Mixed archival materials
United States of America, Massachusetts, Chestnut Hill
Chestnut Hill
Coffin Garden (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts)
Coffin Garden is an organic enclosed garden incorporating formal and informal areas highlighted with unique architectural elements and water features. The garden is located on half an acre in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, complementing a Colonial Revival house designed by J. D. Leland. The garden was redesigned and restored since the late 1980s using the following three guiding principles: 1) use of existing elements (namely, incorporate the out-croppings of pre-Avalon lava flow and preserve the existing 1930s formal garden), 2) use of native species, and 3) creating a garden for the fall and spring.
The front garden is elevated about 25 feet above the street and is reached via wide stone steps from an upward-sloping driveway. The steps are set back between the rocks on each side, surrounded by shade plantings, and surmounted by two asymmetrically placed Tobiosha Japanese maples. A ledge of hardened lava rock outcroppings to the south of the house is planted in white-blooming moss, thyme and sedum. There are trees and shrubs on the far end of the lawn and foundation plantings around the house. The property is delineated along the western edge by a hemlock hedge which provides the bones of the garden. A bluestone walkway continues to terraced areas along the west side of the house. An upper level covered terrace facing a small lawn enclosed by a boxwood hedge features Salterini outdoor furniture from the 1930s and herbs planted in containers. Steps from this area lead down to a larger terrace and then to a large lawn laid out with curving shapes. Plantings around the lawn include boxwood hedges and evergreens and garden features include a long dry stone wall, paved seating area with rustic furniture and a stone pathway leading to a rustic gate. A path through an informal woodland area at the back of the property connects this gate and another gate on the other side. Between the two gates is a large native perennial garden with many native meadow plants. A waterfall and fishpond integrated with the plantings provide a focal point for the rear garden.
Plantings along the side of the rear garden are oxydendron underplanted with ferns in front of a holly hedge. Stone steps lead to another bluestone terrace on the eastern side of the house. The terrace is designed with box hedges and espaliered fruit trees against the brick wall of the house. Four enclosed beds are set around a bluestone circle planted with native plants.
Persons associated with the garden include: Dr. and Mrs. E.B Dunphy (former owners, 1932-1989); J.D. Leland (architect, 1930s?), Hartney Greymont (arborist, 1989- ); Peter DiClemente (gardener, 1989-); Amory Architects (landscape designers, 2010); Robert Hanss, Inc (landscape construction, 2012-2013).
The folder includes garden plans and a planting list.
Local number:
Data Source:
Archives of American Gardens

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