By Sharron Johnson
Peachy keen is how I would describe 2005 Evelyn.
It is located in the northwest quadrant of Cooper-Young. The caretakers are Sarah and Brad Gilmer. It’s a sweet little house painted a peach color on the clap board siding and trimmed with white.
The house is a sort of blushing June bride, possessing three red brick porch posts sitting upon brick bases. The center base is three times as wide as the post and each is capped with limestone. A ledge created on either side of the center post is a wonderful space to display potted plants, and that’s just what the Gilmers done.
The wide staircase leading to the front porch is inviting. It’s a conversation area with a porch swing, a couple of chairs, and a repurposed electric wire spool, beckoning all that pass. The spool is a focal point painted aqua. The porch travels the length of the house. The front door is off center with a pair of sidelight windows and a thin transom atop the door. A single double-hung sash window completes the street view.
The house was built in 1930 in the style of a Queen Anne cottage. This style of house was beginning to wane with the advent of the bungalow. It is double gabled at the roofline, sporting a single square vent that peers out at the street. Makes me wonder if the vent has been changed over time from a carved ornate piece. Many were as styles and tastes changed. Our gardens and homes are no exception.
This garden has a zoysia lawn as you enter off the street, perfectly edged from the parkway to the porch. The house faces north, but there are no big trees in the front to block the sun. To the east side of the property’s edge next to the neighbor is a planting bed. It is edged with a scalloped brick edger. The bed meanders around to the front stoop. The bed is filled with forsythia, azaleas, nandina, roses, and a crepe myrtle, aka lagerstroemia, that is trimmed into a standard form. It’s a member of the loosestrife family.
I don’t know if Brad and Sarah realize the major plantings in the front beds are all derived from Asia, even the humble rose. There is a new driveway and sidewalk bordered by a new rectangular bed edged with squared off timbers. The plantings are newer but consistent with the rhythm of the other bed. A few knockout roses and monkey grass are planted here which should be bumper to bumper in a few years. As you wander down the driveway there are planters filled with kitchen herbs in the full sun.
What awaits the visitors past the wooden gate is magical. A pathway draws you onto a repurposed brick path that is intermingled with new square concrete pads. The randomness is refreshing and unexpected. The north side of the path is edged with Arkansas field stone. The stone girdles a raised bed and a 2’ wide dry creek bed swoops through. Mind you, the space this path leads you down is narrow. Probably 20” wide at best. It is filled with river rock and retained with more field stone. The creek cuts across the brick path twice and is cleverly covered with two small wooden foot bridges. The river bed diverts water away from the house during rain storms. There are a wide variety of statues and trellis hangings in the area, and they are in keeping with the Asian style, with the exception of an antique water pump. The plantings are hydrangea, crepe myrtle, azaleas, hosta and various annuals. The plantings are all timeless and to Asian design. Maybe unbeknownst by the gardener, but nevertheless perfect.
Ferns thrive here in pots and in the ground. The brick path stops at a concrete pad that appears to be the remains of a former driveway. A nondescript blue shed anchors the southwest corner of the garden. A flagstone patio acts as a gateway to a large wooden decked porch. Half the porch has a pergola, open to the sky. A visual wall of three different doors add whimsy to a practical space. The deck is home to another swing. This one is macramé. Lilies border this outdoor room. In the center is a round patch of grass with planting beds surrounding the entire space. In the southeast corner is another swing perched up on a raised earth pad with a checkerboard patterned floor made of 12×12 terra-cotta pads. Tree stumps sit as end tables. Very inviting. A trio of cypress evergreens with exposed trunks line the continuing wooden privacy fence that surrounds the property. Cannas are scattered about the east of the garden, complimenting a 20’ palm tree. This part of the garden has a Mediterranean flair with plantings and statues with a water feature fashioned from stones containing a kneeling maiden. This garden is delightful. I hope they invite me over one evening so I can experience this space by the moonlight.
Brad tell the readers about you and your wife, Sarah. Where are you two from, and what attracted you two to CY?
Sarah and I moved to Cooper-Young from the University area. We fell in love with the house and the neighborhood right off the bat. We like how eclectic and friendly our neighbors are and the close proximity to so many great bars and restaurants.
How long have you two been married and where did you two meet? Children? Fur babies?
We will be married seven years in July. We have two terrible little fur babies named Rufus and Buster.
What are your professions?
I am a lawyer and work with health care providers. Sarah is a saint. She works at juvenile court in the dependent/neglect system appointing attorneys for the children.
Any hobbies or passions to share?
Sarah is an artist and is very talented with multiple mediums, particularly photography. I like to work in the yard.
Are you both gardeners?
I get it naturally from growing up on a farm. It’s in my blood so to speak. Sarah is starting to enjoy it too.
Your garden has an Asian edge with a hint of Greece. I like the fusion. Was this intended or an unscripted evolution? Will there be other styles to come in the future?
Well, the Asian inspiration came from a large, red concrete dragon that the prior owner left behind. The Grecian things were not necessarily intended. I found a statute of a lady that is now in our water fountain and thought it looked like my wife, so I bought it and decorated around it. Our house is the same way. One room looks one style and another style. I have always believed that you have more freedom when you’re not confined to one style.
Are your plants pass-alongs, preexisting, or propagated?
A lot of my daylilies and buttercups actually came from the house where I grew up. I have moved them to different houses over the years. I have transplanted many of the shrubs from one location in the yard to another, and I have added some new plants over the years.
Water can damage; You have had your share come through your space. Dry creek beds with bridges and a mini ditch: did these take care of the deluge?
Yes, one of the best investments I have made since moving in was to have a dry creek bed put in to divert the flood that comes through my yard from the houses to the west of me. It has really helped with the problem. We thought the bridges would just be fun and went with the feel of the yard.
Where did you acquire that, what seems to be 20’ tall palm? It totally surprised me.
That palm was about 4” tall when I moved in. I have just nurtured it over the years. I wrap it in heavy burlap in the winter to protect it. I’ve planted Clematis under it, and it is now starting to climb it so that will be pretty in a few years.
Any favorite plants or stories about your garden you’d like to share?
What we have now is a far cry from what it was. When we bought the house, it came with a very cosmopolitan above ground pool. My buddies and I started the Evelyn Avenue Above Ground Pool Water Volleyball League and played for 4-5 years every Saturday. When we decided to take the pool out, it gave us a pretty fresh palate to start over. It has been fun transforming it. I’m sure that my neighbors are happy that the EAAGPWVL is no more. We could be pretty noisy.
How many hours do you spend in the garden each week.
I would say I average 8-10 hours outside during the week doing one thing or another.
Future plans for your space?
Nothing other than enjoying it.”
I really enjoyed touring this garden. The dry creek bed has inspired me. I will be building one for myself. I hope everyone got a chance to tour this garden on the Second Annual Cooper-Young Garden Walk this past month. Hopefully they will rejoin the garden walk in 2018 in case you missed this one. See you in July.