Located in the southwest quadrant of Cooper-Young is our December yard of the month, 2100 Felix. The home was built in 1910 and is owned by Ric and Jo Chetter.
Traveling west on Felix just off Cooper is this single-story Queen Anne composite cottage that resembles a Grimm’s fairy tale setting. It has a gable-end-roof. One side of the gable has a window and the other has a scroll cut, round grille cover. I’ve been told by many people throughout my lifetime that the fancy scroll cut on the covers were a way to ward off evil spirits. I am still searching for documentation to back that up. It’s probably just folklore.
According to Architectural Trust, a gable roof is “a roof with two slopes – front and rear– joining at a single ridge line parallel to the entrance façade. When the ridge line of a gable-roofed house is perpendicular to the street, the roof is said to be a ‘gable-end roof.’”
The beige clap-board sided house is well appointed with dark green trim and dark red accents. If it weren’t for the vibrant color, you would not see the house because the foliage starts at the sidewalk’s edge with square trimmed boxwood hedges that are waist high. They act as a corset to contain an abundance of plants.
This garden is all about foliage. Staged shrubs and understory trees in various heights, which is ideal for this Victorian path garden.
There is a break in the boxwood that invites visitors to enter where there are Arkansas field stones laid and spaced enough to create a path that makes this postage stamp front garden seem endless. In the center of the garden, like a gemstone in a ring, are two spirea shrubs that are a good six feet wide and bloom white during the spring and a couple of crepe myrtles jumping out to watch over the garden below. Below, like a carpeted floor, is ivy covering every inch of soil and creeping into every nook and cranny. It even encases the porch posts like a screen only to be up scaled by the razor bushes that acts as shutters to keep prying eyes at bay.
This property has a mature tree on every corner that creates a fence post effect of its boundaries. There are water oak, sycamore, and hackberry that all look to be 75-plus years old. A wooden fence surrounds the back yard. There is a concrete drive that creeps down the east side of the house into the back. Half cut whiskey barrel planters that contain bamboo bound the east side of the back fence. The water oak is starting to engulf the concrete in a way that recalls the blob in the iconic Steve McQueen film. The same layout is continued in the back with paths meandering from one side to the other. Ivy is literally dripping from every corner of the house. Where the concrete stops and the garden begins is established with two classic planters and an arbor that creates a doorway into another world. The same pathways continue to a large pergola set to the side filled with seating, table, and a fire chiminea like none other I’ve seen before, almost Moroccan in style. There is also a large, concrete, two-tiered fountain of a woman with an urn on her shoulder that is the centerpiece to the back garden. A red umbrella with red iron and red wooden Adirondack chairs create intimate seating throughout the west side of the garden. Bamboo, azaleas, monkey grass and althea are scatted about along the west fence. There’s even an Irish leprechaun peeking from under the back stoop. Now, let’s chat with Jo.
Jo, tell me about how you and Ric met.
Ric and I met on September 8th, 2001 through one of Ric’s co-workers, who had arranged a blind date for me at the Blue Monkey that was not Ric. However, she lost her keys and had me take her back to the radio station where she and Ric were doing a late show. She wanted him to join us at the Blue Monkey for a drink. He willingly accepted. He took a lift with me. When we arrived there, my long haired, leather clad biker date was the bouncer. Ric and I just walked by him and sat at a table. I’m not pretending, I was meant to meet that lad. Ric and I just hit it off. The biker friend came to our table and dropped off a “wedding cake” shot. That was a good omen! That was it. The only problem was 9/11 happend the next day, and all Ric could say was, ‘I met my dream girl and now it looks like the world may end, and I won’t even get to know her.’
Jo, I know you are from Ireland. Where in Ireland are you from? When did you move here and what brought you here? Is Ric a native of Memphis? If not, where does he hail from?
I came from a dairy farm in the midlands of Ireland. The second smallest county in the country. Eight girls and four boys, me being stuck at number six. Maybe that’s why I’m not living there. I was invited in 1992 through a mutual friend to visit Memphis for a holiday. I took him up on his offer. I promised me family I would return in three weeks. Well, 23 years later the holiday is still going on! Ric on the other hand hails from San Antonio, Texas. He came here in 1996.
Jo, tell the reader what are y’all’s occupations.
I am a waitress. I started out at Kudzus in 1992 for nine years then opened up Dan McGinness in Peabody Place and from there was a partner at Celtic Crossing. Us Irish people are strong and temperamental, so things didn’t plan out the way I wanted. So I went to Patrick’s restaurant in east Memphis where I currently am. Ric is a radio personality, having spent 14 years on air at Rock 103. He spent the last four years there co-hosting the morning show with John “Bad Dog” McCormack. He now owns an online radio station called Radio Memphis and a recording studio called Pirate Radio Studios Inc. He is currently on in 170 countries in the world and does a weekly podcast called, “From Radioland.” Ric is live on the air at Radio Memphis.com, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
What are your passions and hobbies?
I’m a very active person. I love to play tennis, swim, and putter around in the garden. Also, playing with our two greyhounds and two cats. When I’m not too exhausted at night, I love to knit. Ric likes to play golf, cook (probably one of the best cooks I know), write, and restore old cars. Lately, it seems like all he does is work on Radio Memphis stuff.
When did you two move to Felix and what attracted you two to this home?
We were living in Harbor Town and went to a party on Young Ave. We loved the house there, so we decided it was time to begin looking for a house similar to the party house in the Cooper-Young neighborhood. We set out the following week to look and saw a few that we didn’t care for, but a realtor told us about this house at 2100 Felix. We arrived at the house on a cold winter day in March 2006 to see a lovely fire lit up, plus the house was wonderfully furnished with antiques. Everything was exactly what we wanted. Being the impulsive person I am, I decided there and then we wanted to buy this house, which we did that p.m. However, when we actually moved in, the furniture was removed and the house looked empty, dull, and boring. I began to regret me decision. Within a few weeks, we had made it our home. It’s surrounded by lots of trees. It looks likes an old cottage; very mysterious and cozy. I love all the space we have. It’s an old house, built over 100 years ago, but has a very up to date modern look about it. Having a fireplace is a must for us. It’s really what sold us on the home.
The house is painted multiple colors. Why these colors?
When we moved in, the house was painted a delicate beige, which I hated. I’ve always loved rich, dark, and bold colors, so we decided on burgundy with a hunter green trim. Initially it looked very dark compared to all the neighbors’ houses, but then it has faded pleasantly with the sun. I love vibrant definition both inside and out.”
This property has many mature trees. Has this been an issue for you?
Yes, we think sometimes it’s a disadvantage being surrounded by so many trees. I often look up and see these huge limbs bending over our house, hoping a gush of wind doesn’t knock down one of these majestic trees. Then again, we look at them, our big water oak, which we share with our neighbor, a fully-grown sycamore tree, fig tree and a holly tree and feel so protected and secluded as if we were in our own wee little forest.
What was the front and back yard like when you two moved in?
Both the front and back yards were boring! Basically, nothing but grass. I never felt our house would be complete until the yards were done. All there was in the front yard were the boxwood bushes. I hired a local landscaper who did a nice job, but I wanted more full and lush. Then we went to Touliatis’ and met a worker there who said he would help me decorate the yards. Every Sunday for a few weeks he arrived with lots of plants and shrubs. Together we planted everything. I then decided on ground cover and got ivy. I just went crazy planting, planting, and planting not realizing that when everything grows it would look un-tame, like a forest. To me, the more the better. I didn’t realize that ivy has three stages. The first year, it sleeps. The second year, it creeps and on the third year, it leaps! Well, it sure does. Now we are surrounded by ivy everywhere.
As for the back, there was one hydrangea bush and grass. We decided to put in a kid pool. After a few days it busted and all the water drained on the ground, so I had an idea to landscape that little area. Before I knew it, I was landscaping all of the yard. Ric decided on putting an arbor up. It’s a very tranquil place. It’s so hidden and intimate with a fish pond and fountain. I wanted little paths all around to give the feel of a traditional Irish garden. It evokes a sense of peace, solitude, and a feeling of being at home.
What is your favorite part of your garden?
Sitting in the arbor at night is a place of refuge. With the outdoor fireplace it is what we cherish most about the garden.
Where did you learn to garden?
Truthfully, I’m self-taught. I grew up watching me mother tend to her garden and plants. The difference is we had no trees, therefore, no shade to deal with there. But here is different. It’s all shade, so it’s all shrubs and ground cover, ivy, and plants that tend to do well in shady conditions. They require less maintenance. I do miss not having the rainbow of colors I was accustomed to there. It’s trial and error. If it grows, great. If not, I’ll just sow something else.
Do you have advice for a budding gardner?
I think gardening is like being an interior designer in a way. Inside you paint, hang pictures, and decorate. Outside it’s very similar: planting, arranging and developing. You learn by letting the plants tell you what is good for them. Lots of trial and error. It’s really a reflection of your own personality.
What inspired your garden design?
I don’t like dainty in a garden. I like a hint of ruggedness, all the while maintaining a sense of organization. I just go with me gut and when I see that that first little green bud develop I know me garden begins to take life of its very own again.”
I hope you all enjoy the Yard of the month articles as much as I enjoy producing them. I learn so much from my neighbors and their gardens. I will see you all in February 2017. Happy Holidays and a very green garden New Year! —S.J.