CHARM, CHARM with a side of CHARM. That describes 2053 Oliver.
How fortunate for all of the surrounding neighbors to enjoy the view. Speaking of view, anyone know or remember what a view finder is? Well, it was a device that you would put up to your eyes like binoculars, and you could click through a wheel of tiny photos. The photos came to life as if you were right there in full technicolor. The photos were a view into magical places, almost like you were transported there. I am certain that a snapshot of this quaint white on white clapboard could be included.
This wonderful residence is located in the northwest quadrant, just steps away from Tanglewood and Oliver. A majestic gingko sits in the northeast corner of the front yard. It is a beacon, drawing in visitors from all directions. The house was built in 1912. In 2012, it was brought back to life from a duplex structure on the interior to the graceful Queen Anne she was always meant to be. The gingko has stood as the watchman protecting the house and all its comings and goings for 100-plus years.
Walking up to Becky Frost and Gina Sweat, the current owners, on the front porch you immediately feel welcome and the hand painted welcome sign standing in the corner says so, literally. The front side walk to the street is edged with a grass parkway; it’s like the underlining of a sentence that draws emphasis to what’s about to be discovered. On either side of the garden entrance sidewalk are matching evergreen bushes sitting like bookends, corralled with a small Victorian styled metal fence. Just beyond on the east side is a small patch of miniature mondo grass forming an evergreen “carpet.” The carpet is then edged with a reclaimed brick path that is a much needed path to access the driveway from the front door. The west side of the front garden is a lush lawn. The gingko doesn’t shade this side of the yard. A focal point in the lawn are precisely placed Adirondack chairs in a punchy red coral hue. Flower beds filled with precisely-placed, conifer-shaped evergreens, seasonal annuals, and perennials such as assorted box woods, shrubs, Kalanchoe, autumn ferns, and sweet brooms on both sides. The plantings hide the underpinning of the foundation in front of the house, so all you notice is the limestone slabs atop bricks fashioned into stairs with flair. Nice.
Up the stairs to the L shaped porch that is true to a Queen Anne style, it’s most accommodating for visiting whether it be sitting at a yellow bistro set, wicker porch swing, or a bench made from an old twin bed headboard. Queen Anne’s in the south are noted for the two entrance doors. These are French-styled doors and painted yellow. One for the main entrance and the other for the master bedroom to access the porch for sleeping on hot summer nights before the advent of air conditioning.
Headed down the driveway and through a wrought iron gate is a feast for all senses. The clever re-purposed art pieces continue into the back living space. Old doors are used for a pub-style table and another is a trellis. I was impressed with the front garden only to be wowed by a mere glimpse of a light gray painted car garage. It appeared to have been rehabbed from an existing structure that probably housed a car from the 1920s or 1930s. It has a porch with a brick floor added to it; big enough to accommodate another pair of Adirondack chairs exactly matching the ones on the lawn. This is what is described as a “she shed.” The theme of planters, wall art, and antique peddle car is fire department all the way. The walkways and patio areas are fashioned with flagstones that are setting up conversation spaces; a fire pit circle and another smaller space for a couple of chase loungers amongst a vast lawn. Close to the house is a very mature oak tree that casts a much-needed shade line for summer gatherings with friends. The oak is under planted with monkey grass and a French drain was added for water control. The fence on the west side is lined with mature azaleas. A raised wooden deck with a roof cover is attached to the back of the house that would be a perfect spot for morning coffee. I’m certain dogs would enjoy this view and space as much as the owners.
This and many other gardens are being featured in the Cooper Young garden walk May 21-22 2017. Check out Cooper-Young Garden Walk Facebook page and the Lamplighter online to keep up on garden walk announcements.
Are you ladies from Memphis or are you two transplants?
Gina: I was born in Memphis, where we lived in several apartments in Midtown but we moved back to my parents’ hometown of Middleton, TN, when I was about 5. After I graduated from Freed-Hardeman College in 1988, I moved back to Memphis. Becky is from Lakeland, FL, and moved to Memphis in 1995.
When did you two move in this house?
Why did you choose the house and this neighborhood?
Gina had owned two Midtown homes previously that had required a lot of renovations so we were looking for something that had already been renovated. The couple we bought the house from had pretty much renovated the house all the way down to the studs but had managed to keep the character of the house intact. They had done all of the major work and pretty much left us with a clean canvas to work with which was right up Becky’s alley.
When our realtor told us she had a friend who was remodeling the 4-square across the street and would be moving that’s when Becky first came by the house, she texted our realtor and said this is the one; it felt like home. We were so happy they agreed to sell us their house before theirs was even finished being renovated. CY is the true meaning of what a “neighborhood” should be — full of people from diverse backgrounds, wonderful neighbors and beautiful homes and gardens.
What are your professions?
Gina is the Director of the Memphis Fire Department. She started in 1992 and has worked her way through the ranks of the department. Becky is the owner of Old Towne Bakery in Olive Branch. We just celebrated our 15-year anniversary.
What are your passions and hobbies?
We love to travel as many times a year as work allows. Our favorite vacation spot is Anguilla, BWI, just off the coast of St. Maarten. Becky also is an aspiring artist and has been working with Ken Lecco honing her skills. We both also love the outdoors and working in our yard.
Tell us about your “babies.”
Linzee is a 15-year-old schnorkie. Sophie is a 12-year-old Maltese and is the alpha dog of the house. Devan is a 7-year-old giant schnauzer who loves to frequent the patios in Cooper-Young.
Have you two been gardening a long time or is this a new passion?
Growing up in Florida, my mother was always outside tending the vegetable garden or working in the yard year-round, and I was her shadow. Her green thumb apparently rubbed off on me.
What was the yard like when you two moved in?
Not much had been done to the yard since they were still finishing up the house renovations. We had to have some pretty extensive tree work done first by HTS Tree Work and Stump Removal
Did you design and install the gardens?
The design was a collaboration between Becky and Patrick Loflin (Patrick Loflin Landscapes)
Patrick did most of the installs and transplanting existing plants from the front to the backyard. We repurposed the bricks from an old incubator in the back yard to make a walkway in the front.
How would you describe your garden style?
Our goal was to have a yard that was designed around our majestic gingko. We also wanted it comfortable and inviting — a place where we could entertain or just enjoy being outside as an extension of our home.
Is there any backstory of the house you can share?
The house shows to be built in 1912, but we haven’t had a chance to research much history.
The ginkgo is a gem. Can you share any stories about it?
We were told when we bought the house how beautiful the tree would be in the fall, and that was an understatement. People would stop and take selfies and sit their children in the gold leaves for photos. When the leaves fall, it is almost overnight, and it rains gold.”
What kind of grass is your lawn?
What’s your favorite part of your garden?
The area around the “she shack” in the back yard.
We would love to build a fenced in raised vegetable garden in back with an old screen door entry. I will still keep my fingers crossed for a pool.