Garden Variety

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Shaded niches and year-round blooms frame a historic 1840s Uptown home


Red wine recaptures its status and pizzazz

Gardens, as aficionados know, take years of tending, nurturing and effort to reach a state of perfection – if perfection is ever attainable. Most begin with a plan, a vision, then morph with each season; things planted grow, bloom, die off and need replacement. Gardens transform as the gardener’s tastes change and mature, and various elements including statuary, fountains, walkways and seating are added.

For the owner of what is actually three separate gardens that wrap a gracious Uptown residence, the love of gardens began long before 1988 when he purchased the property. The center hall house, circa 1840, is one of the oldest in the Touro-Bouligny area. The perfectly proportioned colonnaded cottage had a tidy front yard, enough room on the side for parking and access to the rear of the house. There, some 80 percent of area was taken up by a 12-foot deep swimming pool fitted for the former owner, who was handicapped. A small separate cabin, original to the property but badly damaged by termites, took up the rest of the space. The new owner, a keen preservationist, turned to architect Davis L. Jahncke to save the building and convert it into a pool house.

When it came to the garden, the owner, who has a penchant for formality and symmetry, chose Michael McClung of Four Season Landscaping to collaborate on all stages and evolution of design. From the beginning, the owner referred to each step as a phase. “Phase One was the front – yard, porch and walkways,” he said. While plans were drawn for boxwood reined in by topiary shapes with each row reaching a new height, the existing lawn was torn out and subservice irrigation was installed.

Once complete low boxwood hedges in varying shapes led up to the edge of the porch gallery and topiary in planters flanked either side of the front door, the owner turned his attention to “Phase Two.” A sliver of land alongside the house, which served as a driveway and access, was transformed into a series of shaded secret gardens thanks to arches, mature wax myrtles and carefully selected benches and statuary.

“Phase Three” was a major but somewhat expected undertaking. After more than 20 years of enjoying the pool, the owner decided he wanted more garden. “I enjoyed the pool but it was awkward and took up the entire yard. We thought about all manner of alternatives. At one point, we were going to take out the large pool and put a long narrow lap pool down the center of the space with fountains on either side,” explained the gentleman known for his taste and style. “In the end, I opted for a simple fountain, limestone walkways and a garden designed to bloom all year. Tucked in niches between, under and around bushes, trees and hedges are statues, many of which look like pals.

“When we pulled the pool out there was room for a porch. So we decided to do a mirror image of the front porch but slightly wider. I loved that porch with its open air but it really wasn’t useable in summer. Then I went to a friend’s house and was inspired by their glass solarium. That was it; now I can use the room yearround.”

The work began on the back garden in midsummer 2005. The limestone had just been stacked under wax myrtles when Katrina hit. The area did not flood but it was a long time before the project could get back under way. McClung and Landscape Images, which maintains the gardens, eventually put in some 5,000 miniature boxwood, prepped and pruned sasanquas and azaleas into topiary; new and antique camellias were planted. Today, a Sir Edward Lutyens bench anchors one end of the garden, a formal fountain (French Fountains is the resource for almost all the statuary in the gardens) gurgles in the center and what was once a pool house is now a guest cottage.

“I loved sitting on the porch watching the flowers change with the seasons. Now that it is glassed in, I find I live in this room. I have to say the people at Zinsel Glass are miracle workers; nothing is plumb or straight in an old house like this. How they got all of the glass hung and sealed is beyond me. But they did and I can’t say enough about their work. I am so happy in this room.”

And what a lovely comfortable room it is – filled with antiques, many sourced by Kevin Stone, a decorator, dealer and neighbor – bathed in light by day and at night the perfect place for a casual supper with pals, during the season a Saints game on the TV hidden inside an antique armoire, or, for this banker, a place to put up his feet and catch up on the news.

Gardens, as aficionados know, take years of tending, nurturing and effort to reach a state of perfection – if perfection is ever attainable. Most begin with a plan, a vision, then morph with each season; things planted grow, bloom, die off and need replacement. Gardens transform as the gardener’s tastes change and mature, and various elements including statuary, fountains, walkways and seating are added.

For the owner of what is actually three separate gardens that wrap a gracious Uptown residence, the love of gardens began long before 1988 when he purchased the property. The center hall house, circa 1840, is one of the oldest in the Touro-Bouligny area. The perfectly proportioned colonnaded cottage had a tidy front yard, enough room on the side for parking and access to the rear of the house. There, some 80 percent of area was taken up by a 12-foot deep swimming pool fitted for the former owner, who was handicapped. A small separate cabin, original to the property but badly damaged by termites, took up the rest of the space. The new owner, a keen preservationist, turned to architect Davis L. Jahncke to save the building and convert it into a pool house.

When it came to the garden, the owner, who has a penchant for formality and symmetry, chose Michael McClung of Four Season Landscaping to collaborate on all stages and evolution of design. From the beginning, the owner referred to each step as a phase. “Phase One was the front – yard, porch and walkways,” he said. While plans were drawn for boxwood reined in by topiary shapes with each row reaching a new height, the existing lawn was torn out and subservice irrigation was installed.

Once complete low boxwood hedges in varying shapes led up to the edge of the porch gallery and topiary in planters flanked either side of the front door, the owner turned his attention to “Phase Two.” A sliver of land alongside the house, which served as a driveway and access, was transformed into a series of shaded secret gardens thanks to arches, mature wax myrtles and carefully selected benches and statuary.

“Phase Three” was a major but somewhat expected undertaking. After more than 20 years of enjoying the pool, the owner decided he wanted more garden. “I enjoyed the pool but it was awkward and took up the entire yard. We thought about all manner of alternatives. At one point, we were going to take out the large pool and put a long narrow lap pool down the center of the space with fountains on either side,” explained the gentleman known for his taste and style. “In the end, I opted for a simple fountain, limestone walkways and a garden designed to bloom all year. Tucked in niches between, under and around bushes, trees and hedges are statues, many of which look like pals.

“When we pulled the pool out there was room for a porch. So we decided to do a mirror image of the front porch but slightly wider. I loved that porch with its open air but it really wasn’t useable in summer. Then I went to a friend’s house and was inspired by their glass solarium. That was it; now I can use the room yearround.”

The work began on the back garden in midsummer2005. The limestone had just been stacked under wax myrtles when Katrina hit. The area did not flood but it was a long time before the project could get back under way. McClung and Landscape Images, which maintains the gardens, eventually put in some 5,000 miniature boxwood, prepped and pruned sasanquas and azaleas into topiary; new and antique camellias were planted. Today, a Sir Edward Lutyens bench anchors one end of the garden, a formal fountain (French Fountains is the resource for almost all the statuary in the gardens) gurgles in the center and what was once a pool house is now a guest cottage.

“I loved sitting on the porch watching the flowers change with the seasons. Now that it is glassed in, I find I live in this room. I have to say the people at Zinsel Glass are miracle workers; nothing is plumb or straight in an old house like this. How they got all of the glass hung and sealed is beyond me. But they did and I can’t say enough about their work. I am so happy in this room.”

And what a lovely comfortable room it is – filled with antiques, many sourced by Kevin Stone, a decorator, dealer and neighbor – bathed in light by day and at night the perfect place for a casual supper with pals, during the season a Saints game on the TV hidden inside an antique armoire, or, for this banker, a place to put up his feet and catch up on the news.