Inspired Design: Shore Country Day School, Beverly, MA

By October 13, 2009November 22nd, 20116 Comments
by Julie Moir Messervy


An early perspective sketch of the Inspiration Garden by JMMDS Landscape Architect Erica Bowman.

Last week, we put the finishing touches on a new garden for a private day school in Beverly, MA. Known as the Inspiration Garden, this quarter-acre slot between the new dining hall and the older administration and music buildings at the school was a leftover space of grass and a magnificent maple tree. After several young graduates passed away, their classmates and parents decided to create a memorial garden in their honor and asked JMMDS to design it.


Shore students’ visions for the Inspiration Garden. Photos: Julie Messervy.

With the help of head of school Larry Griffin, I worked with the 5th, 8th, and 9th graders to help me envision what an inspiration garden meant to them. The results were a barrage of great ideas, including several that referenced the same theme: beavers. It turns out that the school mascot and logo include a beaver sitting under a large maple tree, so this became the theme for the garden. It didn’t hurt that I live on a beaver pond, so know something about the dams, lodges, and waterways of this industrious mammal.


A JMMDS plan showing the beaver elements of the garden.

The richness of the beaver idea is that it can be worked from concept all the way to even the smallest of details. With this in mind, we designed a log “dam” along a stone “waterway” that led to a “lodge,” all set into plantings typically found in a beaver meadow. The plan enables students to both gather—along the outside edge of the garden–and get away—in seating around the maple tree and under the hut-like structure in the quietest corner of the garden. After doing some fundraising last winter, we began construction just after school let out. The following images show the way construction progressed. We have a few details to add—a wooden gateway, signboards, mulch, and lighting, but the garden is open now and being used by music, art, and science classes; a quiet zone in the heart of campus where inspiration can flourish.


The Inspiration Garden space before (L) and after (R) installation. Photos: Julie Messervy.


Ideas become walkways on the day of the concrete pour. Photos: Julie Messervy.


Professionals from Triad Associates brush a wave pattern and set stones into the concrete to create a beaver waterway. Photos: Julie Messervy.


L: Beaver lodge artist Mark Ragonese at work; R: The fully-installed lodge. Photos: Julie Messervy.


L: Julie with Paul Cawthron and John Merck of Triad Associates; R: Ramón, Mike, Brian, and Bill of Matt Foti Landscape and Tree Services. Photos: L: Erica Bowman; R: Julie Messervy.


L: JMMDS Landscape Architect Erica Bowman’s planting plan for Shore Country Day; R: Erica surveying. Photos: Julie Messervy.

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Erica says:

    This was one of the most rewarding, community oriented projects I ever had the honor to work on with Julie and JMMDS. With Julie’s guidance, the school’s children (and adults alike) worked to develop the garden’s “big idea” and as a result they became fully immersed in the excitement surrounding its installation. It is wonderful to see those young children engaged in gardens and garden design. This is a group of people who will fully appreciate this sacred space for many years to come.

  • Genevieve says:

    I recently signed on to the Home Outside Blog because I was moved by the emotional inspiration & sensitivity JM brought to her work . Having discovered the JMDS website & blog, I’m touched to be able to see this manifested in various works. This beaver/student culture-inspired project is fantastic; a unique solution to common space. Thanks again for JMMDS’s contributions and sharing it with the public. The arc of our own work will ever expand.

  • Debbie says:


    What a wonderful project to be involved in. The involvement of the students in the design and drawing on their ideas for your inspiration resulted in a truly unique space that is a lasting tribute not only to the srudents who passed away but also those who helped design it.

  • Susan says:

    It was truly a pleasure to watch from my office window on the 2nd floor as the Inspiration Garden took shape over the last 2 months! I was so delighted to have the chance to talk with you on one of your last days on the project and realize that it was the first time I had really gazed at the garden from ground level! The true beauty of the pathway and how gracefully the rocks had been set into place was breathtaking.
    Thank you for creating such a wonderful place for reflection on our campus!
    …and thank you for letting me in on the secret of your “Blog-azine!”