This Cheery Delco Greenhouse and Garden Beckons You Outdoors

Gardner/Fox Associates created a plant lover’s paradise that’s perfect for entertaining.


Landscaping around the greenhouse / Photography by Morgan Brinton

It’s hard to imagine this backyard as anything other than what it is now — a plant-and-flower-filled space that sets the scene for outdoor gatherings or gardening whenever the whim strikes. But before Bryn Mawr-based Gardner/Fox Associates worked their magic, the space was empty.

“It was a blank canvas,” says Jeff Brinton, head of the residential design department. The homeowners wanted to create an outdoor sanctuary where the wife could cultivate her green thumb. (She became a Penn State master gardener after retiring from her marketing career.)

The couple had selected a semi-custom greenhouse by Hartley Botanic and tapped Gardner/Fox to build out the structure’s flooring and the masonry patio — both were done in natural-cleft flagstone — plus the home’s main deck staircase. A clever touch? The short walls around the edges of the patio, which feature flat Pennsylvania bluestone caps, do double duty as natural seating areas — perfect for entertaining without bringing in chairs.

The landscaping by Glen Mills-based Stoney Bank Nurseries was designed to feel like a formal English garden. Among the plant life: several kinds of Japanese holly — ‘Steeds,’ ‘Sky Pencil’ and ‘Soft Touch’ — that grow to different heights. A potting shed fronted by raised rough-sawn cedar planter boxes — mainly used for vegetables — sits to the side of the greenhouse. The Gardner/Fox team plotted the position to help develop visual interest. Says Brinton: “It creates vistas as you sit on the patio and look across the yard.”

The landscaping

Stoney Bank Nurseries selected Japanese holly over boxwood because the plant is more disease-resistant in climates like Delaware County’s. ‘Greenspire’ around the entrance to the greenhouse provides texture.

The potting shed

potting shed

The couple wanted a maintenance-free space to store clay pots and shovels when not in use, so Gardner/Fox created a wood-framed structure with an exterior finish in Hardie Plank cement-based siding. “It looks like wood but doesn’t rot,” says Brinton.

The greenhouse


The design features built-in benches and a thermostat system that automatically opens the glass panels at the peak of the structure to let the heat out during warmer months. The natural-cleft flagstone flooring by Gardner/Fox slopes downward toward a central trough for water drainage.

The corner seating


Interior designer Ainsley Stewart chose this set of Celerie Kemble chairs because they resemble rattan but have a weatherproof powder-coated aluminum frame.


Published as “Habitat: Garden Party” in the August 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.