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Beautifying the Landscape at The Hill

One of the greatest benefits to living at The Hill at Whitemarsh is having access to the 96 acres of open land as your backyard (and front and side yard). From the beginning, residents have been deeply involved in the landscaping of the property—both in the planning process and execution—through the Landscape Committee.

The introduction of the new buildings at The Terraces in 2020, however, required the Landscape Committee to bring in outside experts to help them create a long-term plan for beautifying the landscape at The Hill. Paul Meyer, the recently retired Executive Director at the Morris Arboretum, and Jill Barber, Landscape Architect with Taylor Wiseman & Taylor, signed on to further the cause.

“We’ve been engaged with The Hill since 2009, and I meet regularly with the Landscape Committee as needs and issues arise in order to advise and implement their plans,” says Jill. “It’s such a wonderful group; their passion for their community and plants is evident.”

Paul has also been involved with the Landscape Committee since the early days of the community, though never in the kind of leadership role that he now holds.

“I have followed the progression of The Hill since the very beginning. I got involved at its inception, which was the preservation of Erdenheim Farm,” says Paul. “When the Landscape Committee needed help organizing around the master plan for the property, I helped put a process in place and worked with the group to identify priorities. It could have been a challenge, but there was a real consensus about what to address.”

Among the top priorities: develop plans for the Club Room and fountain-area landscape, develop a walking trail behind Lenape Lane, oversee the post-construction landscape installation, and plan for additional spring flowering bulbs and robust meadow wildflowers.

Ann Kent, former co-chair of the Landscape Committee and current member, reiterates that all of the priorities they agreed upon match the overall mission of the Committee:

To build upon, develop, and maintain an outstanding community-wide landscape comprising gardens, woodlands, and ponds that satisfy the aesthetic, social, environmental, and recreational needs of residents of The Hill at Whitemarsh.

“This experience has provided us with an opportunity to get people more aware of and thinking about what is possible here,” says Tom Lloyd, current co-chair of the Landscape Committee. “We have been trying to come up with ways to keep people more active and are thinking about lawn games like bocce or croquet. The outdoor spaces at The Hill are just as important as the indoor spaces when it comes to lifestyle.”

Tom, who lives in a house that overlooks Dixon Meadow Preserve, has been able to watch people walking through the meadow every day, a number that has steadily increased in his three years at The Hill.

“This experience has provided us with an opportunity to get people more aware of and thinking about what is possible here. … The outdoor spaces at The Hill are just as important as the indoor spaces when it comes to lifestyle.” – Tom Lloyd

“It’s my job to help implement all of these plans,” explains Carl Andersen, Landscape Manager for The Hill. “A recent survey of the residents found that most of them want to expand the number of walking paths along the property. I’m really looking forward to completing these projects that will get more people out into the landscape.”

“It’s worth noting that often when we talk about landscape, people think it’s just about plants,” adds Paul. “But it’s the full environment that the community engages with outside, like the paths and sitting areas around the property, a dog park, or a community garden.”

Ann, who is an avid birder, agrees that the overall impact of the landscaping will play a larger role than many realize. “Adding more native plant material will help to attract more birds, for all seasons,” she says.

“Adding greater diversity of plants is also something I am looking forward to,” said Paul. “Having interest in the landscape for a full 12 months out of the year is important. The habitat or food choices for local wildlife also influenced our choices.”

Tom notes that figuring out how to best utilize the flat areas around the property will help maximize the overall use of the land, from both aesthetic and lifestyle perspectives.

“Socialization is really important,” says Tom. “These outdoor spaces all bring people together, which is our ultimate goal.”

“As we emerge from this pandemic, so many of us have a greater appreciation for natural beauty,” says Ann. “There’s a real therapeutic component to gardening and getting your hands dirty.”

“It’s great to see all the community involvement,” adds Carl. “Seeing a group of dedicated volunteers like this is very unique to The Hill.”

“This has been an especially rewarding project to be involved in, bringing together everyone’s ideas and creating a cohesive Landscape Master Plan that incorporates functionality, connectivity, and beauty of spaces,” says Jill. “It is the very definition of what it means to be a landscape architect.”

The residents at The Hill have many shared values, one of which is the love of nature and preserving the natural environment. This is what has rallied so many of them around the goals of the Landscape Committee. The connection to their natural surroundings is part of what makes life at The Hill so rich and fulfilling.

“There’s a Japanese practice called ‘forest bathing,’ which aims to tap into nature to refresh your spirit,” says Paul. “Encouraging people to get outdoors, explore, and have a quiet moment either by themselves or with others embodies that practice. At The Hill, it can be as simple as a walk down to the Dixon Meadow, allowing you to connect with nature and refresh your soul.”