At his Ohio farmhouse, Nick McCullough creates order and elegance in wide-open spaces.
mccullough family playing with airplane in landscaped yard
Credit: Gabriela Herman

Raised on an Ohio strawberry farm, landscape designer Nick McCullough feels at home in the country. "I like gardens to feel really natural," he says. "But what people don't realize is what makes them feel loose and welcoming is actually good structure and organization." 

nick and allison grain bin toolshed gazing orbs
white house boxwoods japanese forest grasses
purple salvia and allium plants in garden
Left: Silver gazing balls dress up Nick and Allison McCullough's rustic grain bin toolshed. | Credit: Gabriela Herman
Center: Around the house, boxwoods and Japanese forest grasses provide evergreen form and texture. | Credit: Gabriela Herman
Right: Nick likes to mass single plant varieties like purple Salvia, then add pockets of surprise, such as Allium. "They're like exclamation points," he says. | Credit: Gabriela Herman

That philosophy is on display at the 2015 farmhouse Nick built outside Columbus with his wife and business partner, Allison. He carved the spaces closest to the house into rectangles, including a crisp lawn and gravel terrace.

lush green garden with teak patio furniture
Allison found her teak furniture set on Craigslist and hired a local tailor to make the cushions.
| Credit: Gabriela Herman

Nick is a master of garden rooms—defined zones within a landscape design. To keep lawns from becoming"green blobs," he says, clearly delineate their shape (in this case, a rectangle) and edge them in perennials or hedges.

overhead view of terrace with crushed limestone floor
On the terrace, crushed limestone absorbs rainwater and has a softer feel than pavers. (Corten steel edging keeps it tidy.) Serving as natural umbrellas, the trees are hornbeams, pruned into squarish lollipops using an ancient technique called pleaching.
| Credit: Gabriela Herman

Carefully pruned hornbeam trees, a massive evergreen hedgerow of Spring Grove arborvitae and orbs of boxwood form structured backdrops for perennial borders. The design has the bones of a formal English garden, but Nick sowed Midwest in the details.

james watering plants on industrial cart
allium bulgaricum bell-shaped flowers
rockin deep purple salvia
Left: Nick and Allison's son, James, waters plants on an industrial cart that functions like a console behind the terrace sofa. | Credit: Gabriela Herman
Center: Allium bulgaricum has bell-shape flowers. | Credit: Gabriela Herman
Right: Hummingbirds love Rockin' Deep Purple Salvia. | Credit: Gabriela Herman

Native grasses and prairie plants lure pollinators. Rusted wagon wheels roll through flowers. And antler-shape staghorn ferns hang along the garage. "It's comic relief," Nick says. "A wall of living trophies instead of stuffed ones."

yellow and pink allium seed head
agave plant perched on rustic pedestal
nick planting vegetables in galvanized water tanks
Left: Nick likes Allium seed heads for their architectural interest. | Credit: Gabriela Herman
Center: Perched on a pedestal, an Agave anchors Nick's experimental all-silver border. | Credit: Gabriela Herman
Right: In a nod to his farming roots, he plants vegetables and herbs in galvanized water tanks. | Credit: Gabriela Herman

Though elegant, the yard at heart is a family space, one where the couple's children, James and Charlotte, run barefoot as they chase butterflies and look for toads.

silver, green, and purple potted succulents
charlotte standing in front of garage wall with staghorn ferns
allium karataviense pink flowering globes
Left: Potted succulents color within the lines of the garden's silver, green and purple palette. | Credit: Gabriela Herman
Center: Old hayracks hold staghorn ferns on the garage wall, a play on hunting trophies. | Credit: Gabriela Herman
Right: Allium karataviense stands out with its wide blue-gray leaves and pink flowering globes. | Credit: Gabriela Herman

"There are not many rules in our garden," Nick says. "The only thing the kids aren't allowed to do is hang from the hornbeams."

charlotte running by teak patio furniture
Their daughter, Charlotte, runs past a bed thick with repeated clusters of Salvia, calamint, Allium, geraniums and feather reed grasses. Don't be wimpy about borders, Nick says. Deep ones have more impact, and you can see the plants through your windows.
| Credit: Gabriela Herman
faux planter on black porch wall
Allison and Nick bought this faux bois planter at a highway stop while on a road trip between Chicago and Minneapolis. They hauled it home in the trunk and now repot it differently each season. "We see containers as a lab for plants we want to try," Nick says.
| Credit: Gabriela Herman

Nick and Allison's garden is one of 20 featured in a new book they co-authored with Midwest Living contributing garden editor Teresa Woodard. Out in October, American Roots draws lessons from landscape designers' home gardens. Available now for preorder (American Roots, Timber Press, $40).