A little smoke and mirrors make this Ansley Park garden a Zen paradise

Clever details transport visitors to the Far East
Landscape designer Matthew Klyn removed four dead or decaying oaks, opening the site to much-needed sunshine. He then added more terracing to help define spaces.

Photograph by Christina Wedge

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.

Photograph by Christina Wedge

“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.

Photograph by Christina Wedge

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.