Cox Street bungalow, second-generation owner share a long history

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By Sharron Johnson

Alas, May has arrived, and it is time for the Cooper-Young gardens to come alive. With so many types to choose from, where does one begin?

Well, I receive nominations from neighbors and folks I come to meet that want the rest of the community to recognize the beauty that they appreciate. Sometimes, I stumble across a garden and just cold call them up. The reactions are all different. Some are ecstatic with joy and some are, “Oh, no thank you.” Nevertheless, I keep on.

There are other times I see a space and know what season it would be best presented whether it be about the flora and fauna, the caretaker within, or both. New or old, all have an interesting story to present. I even obtain some through attrition. (Hint, hint, Haynes Knight. Inside joke, but keep this name in mind, kind readers.)

It is rare, however, that I run across a garden with as much history as this month’s yard of the month. Located at 905 Cox, it is a bungalow built in 1926, making the house 91-years-old. It has a cherry bark oak tree out front that is 80-years-old. And it owned by a lady that was born there, raised there, married and raised her son there, and still lives there. Katie McHaney, now 68-years-young has lived in the northeast quadrant of Cooper-Young her entire life, and now I am certain there can be a love affair between a plot of land and a person.

You may recall our Yard of the Month from October 2016, Eloise Wood. If not, there is a great archive of all past yard of the month articles to be found at www.cooperyounggardenclub.org. Eloise is the custodian of the giant weeping willow oak on York. She and McHaney are sisters, and both hail from this home, only Katie never left.

When you travel north up Cox, past Evelyn, up on the left there is a magnificent oak with its limbs encroaching the entire skyline. The oak is front and center like a large solitaire diamond set into an engagement ring upon the hand of a blushing bride. Wikipedia says, Quercus pagoda, the cherry bark oak, is one of the most highly valued red oaks in the southern United States. It is larger and better formed than Southern red oak and commonly grows on more moist sites. Its strong wood and straight form make it an excellent timber tree. Many wildlife species use its acorns as food, and cherry bark oak makes a fine shade tree. Cherry bark oak was formerly considered to be a subspecies of southern red oak.

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Behind the citadel of an oak is the cutest little single-story gray clapboard house that is trimmed in white. It has been remodeled to look more like a cottage with a doghouse cover atop the center placed door. A gingerbread trim over the door completes the look, not at all masculine like the typical Arts and Crafts bungalow. There are a matched set of double hung sash windows flanking the entrance. A round vent is perched like a third eye watching over and protecting the members within. There is a green lawn that surrounds the base of the tree. An Arkansas fieldstone-edged flower bed pulls up the far most northern part of the property. It carries from the sidewalk behind the oak to the driveway edged with monkey grass. It separates Katie from neighbors. The bed is also creating a visual that sustains a flock of very mature azaleas and a crepe myrtle, not to mention many shade-loving plants. A concrete bird bath greets all birds and those who pass to enter the garden and a concrete bench beckons a sit for a spell mentality. This home sports a sitting porch to the north of the front door without a cover. Only the oak and azaleas screen all those lucky enough to sit and socialize. Underfoot is a tumbled stone tile set in a random pattern that has the feel of a place that popped up out a story book. There is a multitude of potted plants filling in nooks and crannies. It reminds me of an English muffin with a smear of jam. An absolute delight.

Traveling down the north side of the home is an iron arbor with a gate separating the porch from the back garden, acting as an usher for the show to come. Leading down this mulched path are beds on both side edges, cocooning this nook to feel enchanting. The beds are bumper-to-bumper plants, leaving zero room for weeds. Continuing on, another wooden gate leads us to more bedded edging which guides us onto a grass path. Katie has taken a portion of plant space in font of a double set of windows and added a focal point with a modern water fountain, visible indoors and out. It makes for a nice place to rest the eye. Continuing on up to a wooden deck, well-appointed with wicker furniture with cushy pads is surley a nice place to land to discuss the remains of the day. Did I mention more pots of flowers each with their own space to shine? A storage shed that matches the house sits as a back drop for the deck. It affords Katie a decorating opportunity for birdhouses and wrought iron scrollwork. Down the south side of the garden is the crescendo to this aria: full sun abounds down another grass path with curving beds that are perfectly in keeping with the predecessors of the tour.  The finale is a white picket gate. There are many plants, bushes, and understory trees ranging from Japanese red maples, spirea, autumn clematis, wild oats, roses, and everything in between. Katie’s house is on the 2nd annual Garden Walk, May 20-21 and is a must see on the tour.

How long have you lived in the house?

I was born and raised in my home.

What are some of the changes you’ve seen on the street?

More young adults are moving in, and many of the older adults are returning to the neighborhood.

What was the house and garden like when you moved in?

The oak tree was only 12-years-old when I moved into this home, and the garden was mostly shrubs and grass. It’s 80 years-old now.

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The design of the house, has it changed or has it always looked like a doll house?

The house was in need of repair at the time my parents bought it. They remodeled the whole house, including removing the old porch and adding a large den and additional bath. The layout of the house is basically the same.

The house has a doghouse cover over the front door and an open stone patio, not a large covered porch. Is this your design?

No. It had this design when my parents bought it.

When did you start gardening?

With the goal of less grass, my husband and I along with a neighbor who was a knowledgeable gardener began adding flower beds. I now have 13 flower beds added gradually over the years.

Did you design the garden and what inspired it?

My husband and I began with garden beds that were straight, and through the years many beds have become curved with stone edging. Bird baths, bird houses, fountains, and whimsical art pieces have been added as well as a large deck and stone front porch.

Are there any pass-along plants?

Hosta, sweet antumin clementis, irises.

What are your favorite plants?

Spiraeas, hosta, and roses.

You have a beautiful fountain. Where did you acquire it?

Water Works on Cox. The fountain is the centerpiece of a flowerbed that backs up to my den. I enjoyed opening my windows and hearing the peaceful sounds of the water that soon has me.

The azaleas in the front garden, they are wonderful. Any idea how old they are?

My husband and I planted the azaleas. We bought them in 3 gallon pots to give them a good start. They are now over 20-years-old and over 7-feet-tall and the pride of my garden. I also planted rescue azaleas and neighbor had dug up and put on the road to throw away. They’re putting on quite a show now.

Any future plans for the garden?

No, just maintain.

The lawn out front, is it hard to keep up with the shade from the oak tree?

My father planted zoysia grass, which didn’t live. Chemicals are not used. I allow mother nature to grow what would naturally grow in the shade and then keep it cut like grass.

What are your hobbies and passions?

My main passion is my grandson, who is a student and Peabody Elementary in the 4th grade. My next passion is container gardening and traveling with my sister.

Want to nominate someone for Yard of the Month? Send an email to goddessharron@yahoo.com or drop by Stone Soup Cafe.

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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