Parterre Party When Carey Pickard and Chris Howard throw a party—which is often—guests spill across nearly an acre of garden rooms behind their Macon home, a mid-19th-century waterworks structure. After buying the historic building in 2001, the sociable couple transformed the empty yard into a wonderland of foxgloves, hydrangeas, and boxwoods. They’ve since hosted seven weddings there (including their own). The eight outdoor seating areas include a dining room, a camellia garden, a cutting garden, a parterre garden, and a rondel inspired by one at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, England. The focal point is the 60-inch urn from Scott Antique Markets, which erupts with annuals each year. “They found the urn in Belgium in an abandoned park,” says Carey. “We’ve added a table, chairs, benches, and pots to make it the center of the garden and the main area for parties.”
“We used to be boxwood snobs,” says Chris, “and, for years, preferred the slow-growing American or English versions, but we used Korean boxwood ‘Wintergreen’ for the parterre and have been thrilled with them.” —Lisa Mowry
Living Art The Druid Hills garden of Drs. Ann and Frank Critz has been 42 years in the making, a living museum with ever-changing exhibits. Its latest curator, the Critzes’ son, John Critz of Tilting Windmill Landscape Design, grew up with its stories.
Sweeping beds of annuals and perennials line a circular driveway in front of the Tudor-style home, which the Critzes purchased in 1976. Built in 1921, the house was rich in history—golf legend Bobby Jones was married there in what was then the bride’s home—but poor on curb appeal. “It wasn’t much—just weeds with a huge oak on one side and a holly out front,” Frank says. “But the garden just grew and grew over time, mainly because of Ann’s passion.”
Now, the grounds feature a series of rooms, including terraces, a cozy nook around a fireplace, a playhouse for grandchildren, and lots of serene sitting areas for kicking back and taking in the lush scene, created with help from designer David McMullin of New Moon Gardens. There’s a white garden brimming with floppy Annabelle hydrangeas and variegated Japanese maples and Julianna’s Secret Garden, a whimsical, brick-walled garden that Frank Critz built in honor of their daughter in 1988.
The Critzes’ annual display of tens of thousands of tulips and other bulbs has made it known as “the Tulip House.” A welcome sign invites guests.
“We get busloads of people pulling up out front,” says John. “It’s just something we really enjoy sharing as a family.” —Danny C. Flanders
Outdoor daybeds allow for dozing al fresco
The Pocket Garden: Leafy Hideaway Shape, texture, and green layers define this little intown escape.
Rob Lamy uses every inch of space in his cozy Virginia-Highland garden, which he has been building and layering for more than 30 years. His mostly green landscape emphasizes form and texture over color and leafy foliage over blooms.
When Rob and his late husband, Jim Hipkins, bought the house in 1985, the backyard was nothing more than grass and a gravel pad, which the previous owner had laid for backing the car out of the garage. In the front yard, Rob and Jim opted for adding a foundation border of yews, Indian hawthorn, and dwarf cherry laurels, while in the back they set out to create a shady, private retreat enclosed by a cedar-stained privacy fence.
A two-level deck overlooks the small backyard, anchored in one corner with a pergola that shelters a quiet dining space. Over the years, every inch of space would become part of the garden, including the narrow side yard which doubles as a snug reading nook.
With the help of gardening friend and landscape designer Paula Refi, Rob developed a knack for pairing monochromatic plants in contrasting combinations, such as the frilly fronds of ferns alongside the bold, broad leaves of fatsia and leopard plant. Rob, who later earned a certificate in landscape design from Emory University, learned to accent those plants with white blooming ones, such as gardenias, hydrangeas, and azaleas, as well as variegated ones like an unusual “Wolf’s Eye” Kousa dogwood with green and white leaves.
“I do a lot of hiking, and when you’re around so much green, you realize how many different forms and textures there are among plants when you’re not distracted by a lot of bloom color,” Rob says. Instead, the color in his garden comes from art, such as metal sculptures or a pair of primitive paintings hung on the side of the old garage. “I try to turn an eyesore into a focal point,” Rob says of the structure.
A retired physical therapist, Rob is a master of detail, as evidenced by the pathways he created with intricate patterns of pebbles, each meticulously laid by hand in mortar. They bring the wow factor to a garden built on form and texture.
The Secret Garden: Stone Sanctuary A rambling retreat carved into a granite hillside overlooks a formal landscape.
When Vicky Neuhauser and her husband, George, bought their classic brick house near West Paces Ferry Road 10 years ago, they had no idea the lot backed up to a vein of exposed granite that ran through their neighborhood. Vicky, with plans to create a hillside retreat to overlook their more formal gardens below, started chipping away at the stone with a trowel, unearthing tons of rock that was used to form pathways, steps, borders, benches, and even a garden house. As she and her crew (headed by Erwin Cifuentes) toiled, it quickly became apparent that the terrain—not any site plan—would drive the design for her new garden. “I just had to do one section at a time to see where it would take me,” Vicky says. “It was all a big mystery that has truly just evolved.”
Now, it’s a stunning oasis that the Neuhausers lovingly refer to as “the hill,” a sanctuary for relaxing at the end of a long day, a playground for entertaining friends, and an ongoing project that keeps Vicky intrigued by the mysteries of nature. Hidden behind a 10-foot holly hedge with only one entry, “the hill” feels like a secret garden.
It forms a striking juxtaposition to the landscaped gardens below that surround the gracious covered porch (which the couple converted from a Florida room) and a rectangular swimming pool. There, with design help from Atlanta landscape architect Graham Pittman, the Neuhausers created a traditional basket-weave brick patio and added a slate-and-turf checkerboard surface as a transition to the pool. Bordering the pool, formal boxwood-hedged beds frame rows of tree-form PeeGee hydrangeas, drawing the eye to a shady retreat: a pergola shrouded with fragrant Confederate jasmine and a tea olive hedge. “We love relaxing here, yet there is just something about ‘the hill’ that appeals to us much, much more,” Vicky says.
At the top of the hill, Vicky designed a quaint, Cotswolds-style garden house with solid stone walls and a cedar shakes roof. The window has a wide shelf that doubles as a wet bar for entertaining. “That’s the fun of gardening: There’s always something that needs to be done,” Vicky says. “It’s like therapy.”
The Art Garden: En Plein Air Sculpture, meandering paths, and even a labyrinth make this private yard feel more like a park.
Travels to public gardensaround the world, from the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver to the Storm King Art Center in New York’s Hudson Valley, have informed Bob and Margaret Reiser’s own expansive garden in Brookhaven. “Wherever we go, we always make sure to visit a public garden and collect new ideas,” Bob says. “That’s really important because one big focus of our garden is art.” But as much as any far-flung locale, the Atlanta Botanical Garden has been a source of inspiration for the couple.
The Reisers have concentrated on the backyard, dividing it into three distinct sections with wrought-iron fencing and elevation changes. Margaret, who has lived in the historic home for 26 years and serves on the board of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, enlisted landscape designer Jane Bath to develop an English cottage garden lush with roses, ornamental shrubs, and colorful perennials. In 2004, she married Bob, who is a lifetime trustee at the ABG and brought his own ideas to the landscape.
To the left of the cottage garden, a lawn forms a quiet transition to a terraced swimming pool and pool house. There, a contemporary kinetic metal sculpture sways in the breeze, crafted by California- based artist John Tyler, whose work was shown at the ABG a decade ago. The area is framed by a slope of azaleas and spireas and a raised garden of antique roses, perennials, and annuals.
For decades, the backyard ended with some blue hydrangeas anchored by an old well. Beyond this was just an ivy-infested forest. Bob had the bold idea to turn the area into a woodland walk.
It was a mammoth task, with a team of several workers clearing out the ivy over several days. With the help of Tim Gartland of Hamilton Land Services, Bob created an extensive collection of Japanese maples and shade plants like hostas, ferns, and even some rare finds. A curator from the ABG helped map the paths that wander through a bamboo grove, a fern dell with a dozen species, and a section of native wildflowers.
But the crowning touch is a labyrinth outlined with grasses and ground covers, inspired by one at France’s Chartres Cathedral. “I walk it every day,” Bob says. “But not necessarily for contemplation. I’m always picking up fallen leaves and branches!”
There are those who like to entertain and those who live and breathe it. The couple who own this Buckhead retreat don’t bat an eye at throwing a party—be it an intimate dinner for 10 or an engagement bash for 200—thanks to an outdoor pavilion they added three years ago.
“It’s everything I’ve ever loved about indoor-outdoor living. It’s very California,” says the homeowner who, along with her husband, lives part time on the West Coast.
The duo has always loved to entertain outdoors. But when their parties outgrew the patio, they opted to replace it with a larger, covered space that could accommodate a variety of crowd sizes. They also wanted the addition to encourage a smooth flow of traffic indoors and out from the family room and kitchen.
Those goals were what sold architect Kenneth Lynch on tackling the project. “The structure has it all,” he says. “It has access and visibility from inside the house for extending their lifestyle outdoors, and that works delightfully well for them.”
Before the addition, the owners had always enjoyed hanging out on the crab orchard–stone decking that surrounds their swimming pool and Jacuzzi. At one end of the pool, a gushing waterfall not only forms a focal point but also screens a small putting green, designed by professional golf course architect Mike Riley. During big parties, the secluded spot is also the perfect place for tenting DJs and bands.
Lynch designed the pavilion as a natural extension of the house. Its metal roof is a similar color to the house’s gray shingles. Supporting the open-gabled hip roof are thick posts of white pine that rest on stone pillars.
Underneath, the space has limestone floors and a soaring exposed beam ceiling. Defined lounging, dining, and grilling areas are accessible to the house by three glass doors. In the middle, seating is arranged around a dramatic limestone fireplace with a wide flat-screen TV above the mantel.
“One of the most interesting features is the space’s dramatic lighting,” Lynch says. “The whole interior is lit from concealed sources, plus you have the large rustic chandelier and sconces. At night it glows like a jewel.”
Interior designer Kelly Anthony used a soft earthy color palette of taupe and cream throughout the pavilion. She surrounded a long stone dining table with 10 chairs, slipcovered for easy maintenance.
“When they have family over, it’s cozy enough for small groups,” Lynch says, “and when they want to have sit-down dinners, there’s plenty of room for entertaining on a much larger scale.”
That versatility is what this host and hostess treasure most. “This project really turned an ordinary house into an extraordinary one,” says the latter. “When I come out here, I always feel like I’m on vacation.”
This article originally appeared in our Summer 2017 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.
It’s hard to imagine that Mike and Lee Dunn’s rambling Sandy Springs garden was ever anything less than pristine. But when they bought the property 17 years ago, the yard—“garden” would be too kind—left much to be desired.
Lee recalls unimaginative, builder-grade landscaping dominated by “meatball shrubs,” while Mike still winces over rotting, collapsing railroad ties used to help control drainage. They both wondered how they’d ever tame the three acres of rolling terrain into a series of defined, intimate spaces. Fortunately, the Dunns had the patience to take the transformation a step at a time.
“The one thing we just had to do before we could truly have a successful garden was to somehow conquer the deer,” Lee says. What began as two or three deer a month grew to two or three a day as the Dunns began planting. They tried practically every deer repellent on the market, but nothing worked. “The property was so large, we couldn’t keep up with them,” Lee says. “I’d lose it every time they’d eat some plant that we really loved.” Finally, by surrounding the yard with iron fencing and installing a deer guard (a series of metal rails that are difficult for animals to step over) across their gated driveway, they were able to keep the hungry varmints at bay.
Next there was the issue of drainage. The hilly site was prone to flooding because water ran down to the back of the property, creating huge gullies and washing away mulched paths. Installing dry creek beds managed to redirect the water and solve that problem.
With deer and drainage under control, the Dunns were ready to create the garden of their dreams. However, with three sprawling acres, where to start? “We really didn’t have a plan until we started planting,” Lee recalls. They hired a contractor to create a sunken outdoor kitchen and seating area in a low spot behind the garage. They also sought design advice from landscape designer Tim Stoddard. “He helped us look at the property as a whole, like an artist with a canvas,” Lee says.
Guided by Stoddard’s vision, the garden became a personal pursuit for the Dunns, and the couple believes they make a great team. Lee points to Mike’s eye for scouting the perfect sculptures, relics, and other outdoor art; he credits her plant knowledge.
Fueling their passion was a decision to subdivide the garden into various themed “rooms.” The “welcome garden” ushers visitors through a white arbor along a path to the wide front porch. In back, a similar entrance beckons them to the kitchen garden, where an antique aviary commands attention among roses, hydrangeas, and perennials—as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables. Then there’s the cutting garden, the white garden, the woodland garden; each makes the large property feel more manageable.
“The size of the garden can still sometimes be overwhelming, and once in a while I’ll say we have way too much on our plate here,” Lee admits. “Then the next day, I’ll say to myself, ‘Wow, we really do live in paradise.’”
This article originally appeared in our Spring 2017 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.
Three years ago, when Ray Rubin and Jeff Shelton downsized and bought a century-old bungalow in Ansley Park, it came with plenty of hardscape—as in a walled parking pad out front, a crumbling brick patio in back, and a side driveway leading to a dilapidated detached garage. “This yard was nothing but concrete from front to back,” says Matthew Klyn, the garden designer who helped them perform, by all accounts, nothing short of a miracle.
The challenge wasn’t just tearing up the driveway. “I also asked Matt how we could make the house more inviting from both the front and the back,” Rubin says, “while also making a really small and narrow lot look and feel much larger than it is.”
The solution was to reorient the one-car garage to a back alleyway, eliminating the need for a side driveway and freeing up more land, and then to subdivide the property into garden “rooms.” “Everything here is now a pocket garden—one in front and three in the back,” Klyn says.
Getting to that point proved quite the journey. Klyn began by removing the brick wall enclosing the front yard, ripping up the parking pad, and redesigning the front steps. He then removed the side drive and replaced the garage’s original auto entrance with a residential door and two windows, making the side that faces the house appear like an inviting guest cottage rather than the utilitarian space it still is. In the backyard he installed a small lawn bordered by perennial flower beds; a new raised bluestone terrace took the place of the old brick patio, creating a welcoming spot for entertaining. Finally, Klyn created a third focal point at the back of the lot, with a stepping-stone path that leads to a tall, bright red urn made into a gurgling fountain.
Klyn packed the contemporary urban garden with lush shrubs and perennials that yield not only an ever-changing palette of seasonal color but also an interesting tapestry of textures. In the front, Japanese maples punctuate sweeping beds spilling over with hydrangeas, acanthus, hostas, ferns, and heuchera, while a low wall along the sidewalk, draped with two weeping cedars, embraces the space.
In place of the side drive, a stone pathway leads to the backyard, where the renovated garage now exudes charm. Bordering the small rectangular fescue lawn are boxwoods for year-round evergreen structure as flowering perennials like coreopsis, epimediums, and daisies come and go.
From the bluestone terrace, the view extends to a shade garden dominated by a Japanese black pine and oakleaf hydrangeas. The space is partially enclosed by one wall of the garage, where Klyn crafted a natural trellis from kalmia wood for training sasanqua camellias in espalier fashion—yet another space-saving technique.
“This is my idea of a cottage garden, one that is all about texture and making the most of small spaces,” Klyn says. “There is always something new happening here.”
This article originally appeared in our Summer 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.
The tranquil trickle of water can be heard throughout Sandy and Susi Smith’s garden, lending a Zen-like flow of positive energy. Weeping Japanese maples, scrubby pines, and climbing hydrangeas visually transport visitors to an Asian locale.
It’s only when the Smiths glance above the treetops and notice Midtown’s soaring office towers that they’re jolted back to the reality of their bustling Ansley Park neighborhood.
“It’s just really hard to believe that we are only two blocks off Peachtree Street when you consider how peaceful it is here, with the water flowing and the birds flocking here,” says Sandy.
Welcome to a landscape that combines natural beauty with the art of a little smoke and mirrors. Granted, there’s a gushing waterfall here, a serene fish pond there. But every detail—down to how rocks are arranged in the walls and the pebbles in pathways—simulates the flow of water.
Devotees of Arts and Crafts architecture, the Smiths bought their century-old home on Inman Circle nearly 30 years ago. When two giant oaks flanking the steps to their terraced backyard died about five years ago, the Smiths decided to give their property a makeover—and pursue their dreams of a Japanese garden.
The couple discovered designer Matthew Klyn’s work on a garden tour. “When we saw one of his gardens that was a little East and a little West—Japanese but not over the top—we knew he would know what we wanted,” Susi says.
Klyn, whose boutique firm, Garden, specializes in modern urban spaces, is known for his edgy approach. The design begins with a small waterfall at the back of the lot. A curving walkway links to steps that descend to the patio, passing a small water garden along the way. Paths are surfaced with stones and pebbles that mimic the movement of water, and the pattern on the brick-and-stone walls resembles waves. The end result is a “flow” of water throughout the garden. “The movement begins with the waterfall, then disappears, then reappears elsewhere as you move through the landscape,” Klyn says.
Equally interesting is the varied plant palette, which emphasizes foliage texture. A coarse-leafed Scotch pine topiary became the foundation of the scheme, with contrasting soft, frilly Japanese maples throughout. Three tall Italian cypresses form a focal point in one bed. In classic Asian design, many of the trees are weeping varieties, such as the blue Atlantic cedar and a Japanese maple with a unique resemblance to The Addams Family’s Cousin Itt.
“We love entertaining out here,” Susi says. “It’s just so serene, you totally forget where you are.”
Pro resources Landscape design Matthew Klyn, 404-312-0715, gardenatl.com
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.