Text by Katie Ellis
When Maryland residents Jenifer and Aaron Panner decided to put down roots in a summer home on Nantucket Island, they called on Washington, DC-based landscape architects Leslie Gignoux Fritz and Scott Fritz to help create a one-of-a-kind garden retreat. The creative duo had previously designed the Panners’ garden at their home in Washington, DC, where they formed a fast friendship and trust.
Before they could begin, they had to clear the property. “It started as nothing,” Leslie recalls with a laugh. “It was just a garage and a house—surrounded by poison ivy.” Once the land was cleared and prepped for proper drainage, the team worked swiftly to begin a series of gardens. Jenifer had dreams of more than just the beautiful hydrangea-lined fences and rose-covered façades commonly seen on Nantucket. “We had this vision of the orchard and a beautiful, long perennial border for [Jenifer] to have cut flowers,” Leslie says. “We tried to integrate the Nantucket feeling, but because we’re a little bit outside of town, we went with a country garden that has a New England look to it and very classic lines.”
Leslie and Scott utilized an incredible range of plant varieties to bring the series of gardens to life, and they leaned largely on Craig Beni, founder of Surfing Hydrangea Nursery on Nantucket, for his expertise and inventory of native plants. “I had an existing plant list, but when I got there, [Craig] had such extraordinary plant material that would do well on the island, a lot of it being native—I made the switches that I could make for more mature plants,” Leslie says. “It was an instant garden.”
The series of gardens includes a front orchard and berry garden, a front door garden, thyme-covered stepping-stone paths, a sunset garden, a long border, a hot garden, a white garden, and an arboretum. “Pulling it all together is a framework of native shrub hedges and trees, which frame views, create the courtyard, frame the entrance to home, create balance in the landscape, and guide the visitor through the series of garden spaces,” Leslie says. “We were able to bring the value of the countryside aesthetic with some of the elements of town.”
While the Panners’ country-style garden is vast as you walk through the property and take in all of its individual elements, you quickly realize how special and intentional it is throughout its design. Jenifer loves to cook for her family of five children, and she is able to clip fresh plants from her garden all summer. “Jenifer has always been a phenomenal chef,” Leslie says. “They always have a sit-down dinner.” She also enjoys flower arranging, and her garden was designed with a variety of colors that allows for beautiful cuttings all season. “She does about six [arrangements] a day—and she can with that amount of flower volume,” Leslie says. “She has flowers on the table every night.”
Leslie says that the Panners consider their summer oasis a forever home for their family. “They designed something for the next generation and beyond,” she says. “That garden is artful, but it’s also very elegant. It has modern elements to it and lots of natives, and it brings the family so much pleasure.”