I just returned from a vacation in North Carolina with my kids. We drove out to visit my dad and stepmother at their Pittsboro home, near Chapel Hill, which has a lovely courtyard garden out front in place of a big lawn. The wonderful thing about enclosing a garden with walls, as they’ve done, is that you instantly create privacy, a deer-proof space, and a protected microclimate for tender plants.
Dad opens the wrought-iron gates in the morning and leaves them open all day, but at night he shuts them against the numerous, hungry deer in his rural-suburban Fearrington Village neighborhood. Landscape architect Dan Sears installed the garden in 2001, at the same time their house was constructed. Although Dad and Kay enjoy the garden, their gardening tools, they joke, are put away, and Leslie Booker of Booker Garden Design maintains it for them.
The garden is much shadier than the last time I saw it several years ago. The trees—crepe myrtles, a Japanese maple, and a quirky palm tree—have shaded out some of their sun-loving perennials over the years. That’s the nature of a garden’s evolution, of course. The shade was welcome during our stay, with temperatures in the 90s. As you enter the courtyard, the paver path diverges around a central island bed. The path on the left leads to the main house.
A narrower path on the right leads to the guest house, romantically swathed with red roses.
Beautiful blue and pink hydrangeas reign supreme in the summer garden. White gardenias, just visible at left, perfumed the air.
From the main house your view of the island bed is anchored by this striking sculpture of a kicking man.
The sculpture adds a feeling of energy to the garden. At his feet sits a blue glazed pot filled with lotus, which had not quite started to bloom.
Turning around toward the house, a rusty-leaved Japanese maple and vertical palm tree catch your eye. The evergreen shrubs beneath them have really grown and crowd the paths a little. But the evergreens also make this part of the garden low-maintenance and give it good bones for the winter.
The view from the front porch. Imagine if this were just lawn with a few flowerbeds. It wouldn’t be nearly as interesting or welcoming. The walls allow Dad and Kay to grow numerous plants, like roses, that the deer would eat if they could reach them. The generous paver path meanders through the beds, inviting the visitor to linger on the bench for a few moments, and widens into a patio-sized space closer to the house, where they’ve hosted garden parties.
In a corner between the main house and guest house, where a hot tub once sat unused, they built a grape arbor to shelter a dining/grilling space. A peekaboo doorway in the hedge offers a tantalizing glimpse.
Stepping through the hedge, you enter a good-sized patio shaded by a cedar arbor supporting a grape vine. This space was inspired by a trip to Tuscany. It also has a bit of southwestern flavor thanks to the colorful stucco walls and iron crosses. Dad didn’t know the name of the beautiful plant in the pot; maybe some sort of acacia?
We tried to have dinner here one evening—the ceiling fans kept it comfortable—but a rainstorm chased us inside. Oh, how I wished I could send that rain to drought-stricken Austin.
We stayed in the guest house, surrounded by the garden, and it was lovely to stroll through it morning and evening. Thanks for a wonderful visit, Dad and Kay!
I enjoyed quite a few other North Carolina treats, which I’ll share with you in upcoming posts, including visits to the gardens of bloggers Helen Yoest and Freda Cameron, Biltmore House in Asheville, and—woot!—Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh. Stay tuned!
All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.