Landscape Design Trends in the Bethesda Area

Landscape Design Trends in the Bethesda Area

Sport courts, pools and activity zones--these yards have it all

| Published:

Photo by Michael Ventura

Hoop Dreams

For the first few years, Jeannie and Chris Rhee rarely used the backyard at their Chevy Chase, D.C., home. At 70-by-80 feet, the size was ample, but a steep slope and overgrown cypress trees made it a less-than-ideal spot for their two small children to play. As the boys, Oliver and Linus, now 13 and 9, grew, their parents wanted to give them an outdoor activity area to enjoy with friends. The Rhees agreed that a backyard makeover would be a worthy investment. 


There isn’t a blade of grass in this low-maintenance yard. Landscape architect Bernie Mihm used evergreens for year-round screening, and crepe myrtle trees and rose shrubs for seasonal color. Photo by Hilary Schwab

They hired Bernie Mihm of Poolesville-based Fine Earth Landscape, and he recommended a two-tiered, two-phase plan. First, he regraded the yard and installed a flagstone patio and formal garden just off of the home’s deck. A year later he built a pool, which is a level below the ornamental garden and accessible via three stone steps. 

The Rhees maximized the space in the lower yard with a 15-by-30-foot pool, the largest that would fit and still allow for the required distance from the property line. The pool is equipped with an automatic cover (a great safety feature) and is heated. “This gives them at least another month of use on either end of the season,” Mihm says. 


The surface surrounding the pool is Pennsylvania flagstone, and the steps leading to the pool feature flagstone treads and natural stone risers to match the retaining wall. Photo by Hilary Schwab

A basketball hoop for the pool was another top priority for the Rhees. “My son complained that he couldn’t play basketball at home because we don’t have a driveway or a garage,” Chris says. Jeannie didn’t care for the look of the plastic hoop versions, so Chris found an aesthetically pleasing option online at Dunnrite Pool Products. A sleeve is set permanently into the pool deck’s concrete, and the metal pole slides into it. When the family hosts poolside parties, they can easily stow it away.

The project, which cost about $150,000, scored big points with the kids. “They love it, and it’s a surefire way to get them away from the screens,” Chris says. 

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