homeowner with dog on circular patio with pear and apple trees in autumn garden
Photo: Jim Westphalen
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Switching Gears

A few winters into her stewardship, Robin decided to call it quits, as the orchard dream was losing its luster. The reality of growing apples entailed too many spray rigs for a person fond of birds and bees. Eventually, Robin let the fruit trees go back to a wild state and switched gears, creating a haven for wildlife. That meant converting her land into gardens with fodder for winged things from the first sprig of spring to the last winterberry. She had already begun carving out garden rooms that radiate from the house to extend the living space outdoors. She'd started with a curved patio—having previously done the job herself, she knew that laying out the bricks from a central circle was surprisingly easy. From there, she configured terraces and replaced ailing apple trees with stands of conifers to direct winds over the house. There was an ulterior motive: The gardens gave Robin the flowers she wanted as models for the oversize canvases she paints—but what she really needed was an artist's studio to get her out of the house when snowbound. The workspace she built was a modest clapboard structure, but it incited all sorts of horticultural high jinks.

Shown: Robin Coleburn, shown on the circular patio behind the house, used the arms of espaliered pear and apple trees to form a fence that provides a sense of enclosure.
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