This Sandy Springs garden is “formal, not fussy”

Low maintenance but high impact, this space is about enjoyment, not chores
Boxwoods define the raised beds year-round, while roses and other perennials bloom seasonally. Annuals in planters add more color.

Photograph by Christina Wedge

Atlanta may be known as a city in a forest, but for gardeners, all those shady trees present a challenge. Back in 2009, when Suzy Smith and her husband, Ed, spotted this Sandy Springs home with a flat, sunny area, they were sold. “We saw the untapped potential for a garden,” says Smith. “It’s the first house we’ve owned with that much sunlight to grow things.”

Photograph by Christina Wedge

The previous owner had fenced in part of the yard as a dog run, but Smith envisioned it as a multipurpose garden, with both flowers and vegetables. “We wanted to showcase both edibles and ornamentals, with places to sit and relax,” she says. “The idea was to have a garden be a thing of both function and beauty.”

Working with garden designer Lance Underhill, the couple devised a symmetrical plan, with boxwoods anchoring the corners of raised beds filled with perennials, annuals, vegetables, and herbs. To keep the landscape low maintenance and cut down on weeds, pea gravel covers the pathways.

“Most of my clients are professionals who want a nice garden but don’t have time for a lot of upkeep,” says Underhill. “This garden is formal, but not fussy.” In fact, the orderly hardscape makes it relatively easy for Suzy, a real estate agent, and Ed, a technology executive, to tend the raised beds. “We really don’t have to do a lot of maintenance, but we enjoy coming out now and then to pull weeds and keep the lamb’s ear contained,” says Smith.

All paths meet at an obelisk water feature designed by Underhill. “The fountain is a focal point that doesn’t distract you in a major way like a statue would,” he says. “It’s a classic shape, but a little bit modern too.”

The pea gravel paths with stone edging are easy to maintain. Stone walls, an arbor, and a central obelisk provide structure.
The pea gravel paths with stone edging are easy to maintain. Stone walls, an arbor, and a central obelisk provide structure.

Photograph by Christina Wedge

Smith recalls that they didn’t have a checklist of specific plants to use, but instead ventured to a local nursery and selected a mix that would be hearty and provide color. That includes her favorites, peonies (persnickety though they may be), as well as herbs like rosemary that come back every year with no coaxing.

She enjoys picking homegrown tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in the summer, and using grape leaves from the prolific Concord grape vine along the back fence to line cheese platters. “It’s fun to say things came out of the garden,” Smith notes.

Aside from summer bounty, the garden offers a set for school photos with their daughter, Katie, or spring cocktail parties. At Christmas, the Smiths add a 10-foot tree to the elevated area behind the fountain, where it greets guests as they drive in. “The garden is a beautiful backdrop to come home to, no matter what the season,” says Smith.

Pro resources
Garden design Lance Underhill

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.