Charming Gardens

BY Pamela Kersting

Landscape architect Pamela Kersting traversed the landscape to find a trio of private gardens seeking restful peaceful solitude in the shade. Charmed by their distinctly unique character each setting embodies the principles of good design: repetition foreshadowing transition balance contrast proportion and rhythm all of which come together to tell the story of the gardens.

Yin yang

Yin and yang are complementary opposites that interact within a greater whole as part of a dynamic system. Like yin yang John and Pat Hatchers home and garden coexist as one.

This Southern garden is the perfect setting for the elegant home that inhabits the one-acre parcel that was once part of the Jones Airlie estate. Although appearing to have occupied the site for decades the home and garden were completed only seven years ago. Then a widower John knew exactly what he wanted and hired architect David Lisle builder David James and garden designer Chris Lindley to help him achieve it.

“I wanted a garden that looked and felt mature and would be low maintenance because I had wanted to travel at that time ” John says. That changed however when he married his wife Pat four years ago in this same beautiful garden that easily accommodated their 40 wedding guests.

The Hatcher garden serves two purposes. Offering a lush vista from interior rooms the stunning tranquil garden backdrop surrounds a centerpiece fountain wall covered with fig vines flanked by pyramidal arborvitae boxwood hedges and azaleas.

The garden is also an extension of the home. Across the rear elevation six sets of double glass doors open the kitchen and main living areas up to a lower brick and bluestone terrace. These doors bring the garden inside and extend the interior living spaces outdoors. When opened the house terrace and garden spaces flow together and the indoor/outdoor environment becomes one.

Raised built-in planters on the front and back terraces soften the hardscape surfaces break up long expanses of walls and steps to create opportunities for focal points and frame views of the garden. Filled with boxwood hedges the planters spatially separate the terraces and the evergreen shrubs contrast sharply with red Japanese maple specimens against the texture of the white brick home.

John says “I wanted this garden to be about discovery.” By employing objects of interest such as fountains sundials walls gates benches statues potted plants and topiaries Lindley more than met this objective. While the tightly clipped evergreens provide structure for the garden they also unify it with similar form line color and texture.

Like yin yang the larger leafed azaleas hydrangeas mahonias nandina and camellias part of the propertys legacy contrast with the clipped evergreens and balance the garden creating an overall sense of harmony. When viewed with the morning sun bouncing off the shiny-leaved plants this Southern garden sparkles with light like the surface of the nearby Intracoastal Waterway.

Architect: David Lisle

Building Contractor: David James Builders

Designers: Chris Lindley (landscape designer) Dan Weeks (front and rear terraces)

Landscaping: Cape Fear Landscaping

Lighting: Coastal Lighting

Stone Supplier: Stone Garden

Stone Mason: Graystone of Wilmington

Brick Mason (planters and fountain): Tom Waring

Concrete Pavers (driveway): Lloyds of Landscape

Arbor Construction: David James Builders

Fencing: Black Dog Fence Company

The gardeners gardens

Karla and David Blinn moved to the area a year ago from an oceanfront home in San Diego California. David a retired attorney and part-time painter now spends his days surrounded by the living canvas that comprises his gardens.

The Blinns hired Tim Clark of Clark Carolina Construction to complete the structure that they purchased in foreclosure. Working with Tony Parker of Classic Landscapes to design the gardens Karla says “was like dealing with another artist.”

Parker personally spent more than13 hours studying the topography identifying the problems of the sloped site and sketching a solution. By the time he finished Parker had created a plan for the garden that elegantly set the stage for the drama that was to unfold in three independent and functional outdoor garden rooms.

Facing south the French parterre entry court enclosed by a sea of maiden grass features granite-lined gravel paths boxwood hedges annuals and a central millstone fountain. To the east is the runnel garden that contains a dry streambed. To the rear of the house on the north side is the lower terraced rill garden built around a functional water channel. This garden transitions to the natural wooded fern and hosta garden beyond.

Although each space is different and has its own unique purpose each is tied to the other through Parkers masterful use of repetition in form line color texture and materials all fundamental elements of garden design.

Dramatic yet harmoniously balanced the Blinn gardens achieve a restful peaceful solitude. The gardens dynamics are grounded in four elements: the built environment water plants and wildlife yet the most striking aspect is the sense of movement achieved by the creation of pathways and the selection of plant choices. While evergreens the backbone of any garden are prominent the grasses sedges ferns and herbaceous perennials are the stars of the show. Used in bold painterly strokes their fine-textured foliage blows easily in the wind to create a dramatic and fluid effect as well as a pleasant auditory rustle.

Karla notes “This garden is all about texture movement sound and smell ” which makes it all about the senses. Movement is introduced through fluid water features and Landfalls wildlife population which darts in and out of the plant cover. The gardens paths curved walls and terraced steps create a sense of progression and destination from each space to the next from granite-lined gravel to flagstone to stepping stones to mulch every walking surface except sod is represented.

It is easy to spot the international influences in the Blinn gardens. Karla says that she and David have traveled the globe visiting Europe Asia and Japan Australia and Africa. With each trip they visited more and more gardens. “This garden ” she says “is a conglomeration of many of the gardens weve visited.”

Building Contractor: Clark Carolina Construction

Designer: Classic Landscapes

Pools/Spas: Classic Landscapes

Stone Supplier: Stone Garden

Historic Courtyards

In Wilmingtons historic district homes are built on small lots with smaller side and front setbacks bringing front porches closer to the street and leaving less space between neighbors. Gardens here are often walled and shaped by the built environment giving them a courtyard feel. Often they are organized in a more formal manner. Even though it is sited on two adjoining lots the Hughes garden at the historic George W. Williams Home on Fifth Avenue is no exception.

Williams a local merchant built the Italianate-style dwelling in 1871. In 1922 it was divided into apartments. Over the years the house and yard fell into disrepair. It was the Hughes goal to return the home and garden back to its former grandeur. When Tom and Lucia Hughes bought their home three years ago they painstakingly began restoring it finally engaging Plantation Building Corporation to complete the extensive two-year renovation.

Then they hired me to design a garden that would be appropriate to the time period of the home and to the Cape Fear region. I set about restoring the gardens circulation paths and organizing its spaces into a logical and fluid sequence. This was achieved through the use of architectural elements including gates walls paths and focal points. There is an original wrought iron gate leading to the front entrance of the home and wood gates were designed to match the homes original fenestration.

Like many gardens in the historic district the Hughes garden is walled. Designed to match historic brick walls found on the property as well as lattice details from the homes foundation the walls in this garden separate and screen the courtyard from the service areas. Along the back of the home a very old and crumbling brick wall stands as a reminder of the past.

Crushed oyster shell and brick paths connect the garden areas as they progress through the various courtyard spaces. In the front public face of the garden these paths take on a more formal and symmetrical shape and become more informal as the garden extends toward the rear of the property leading to destinations of gates benches and building entrances. At two points the paths meet circular focal points. One has a potted fern on a pedestal while the other holds a centerpiece fountain in the dwarf boxwood-lined parterre or kitchen garden.

Color in the garden comes from seasonal bloomers such as hydrangeas roses lilies perennials and annuals. Because this historic home takes up most of its double lot the garden spaces around it form cool and intimate courtyards that function as true outdoor living areas complementing the historic architecture of the home.

Building Contractor: Plantation Builders

Designer: Pam Kersting Landscape Architect

Landscaping: Classic Landscapes

Fountain: Stone Garden

Lighting: Classic Landscapes

Lighting: Fixtures Nightscaping

Stone Supplier: Stone Garden

Brick Supplier: General Shale Brick

Fencing Installer: Black Dog Fence Company