Well-Cultivated Atlantans Share Outdoor Abundance

Well-Cultivated Atlantans Share Outdoor Abundance

Marcia Caller Jaffe

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Chai-Style Gardens

Ketzel Levine in her book “Plant This” begins, “My life has been charmed by botanically possessed friends.”

We hope you feel the same after seeing some gorgeous gardens.

Atlanta native Dr. Charles Gershon, a Buncombe County (Asheville, N.C.) Extension master gardener, said, “I love to dig in the dirt and see the fruits of my labors. When I see my garden, it reminds me to look in the mirror and tell myself how lucky I am to be alive.
My favorites are multiple colors of hostas, hydrangeas and dinner-plate hibiscus.”

Gershon’s favorite hosta varieties are Blue Ivory, Fire Island and Alligator Alley. His hydrangeas of choice are City Line Rio and Mopheads. “They are herbaceous,” he said, “so they disappear in winter but come back this time of the year with splendor.”

Take the AJT garden tour with us.

Serenity in Morningside

Kathy Ash and her husband have lived for five years in their traditional Tudor built in 1935. The home has been renovated to give the inside a modern, spacious feeling while maintaining the original period character.

The back gardens were featured in Better Homes & Gardens in fall 2004.

Granite stones and Japanese maples form a welcoming entrance to the Ash home.
Granite stones and Japanese maples form a welcoming entrance to the Ash home.

Jaffe: When you moved in, were the gardens much the same as they are now?

Ash: No, they had not been kept up. It has been a labor of love to restore. Both the front and back gardens are completely landscaped with no lawn. This gives both a unique look.

Jaffe: How would you describe the lushness of the yard?

Ash: The front is landscaped with a variety of azaleas, rhododendron, hydrangeas, Japanese maples, crepe myrtle and ground cover for a textured feel. Bulbs add a splash of color in the spring, and we alternate between petunias in the spring/summer and pansies in the fall/winter.

The back garden is highlighted by an extensive pond system that is home to several koi. The pond is surrounded by flagstone walkways and landscaping that includes maples, conifers, large old oaks, azaleas, viburnum, hydrangeas, rhododendron and caladiums. We also added many hostas, as they are interesting and easy to maintain.

The Ash back yard offers a network of koi ponds with overpasses.
The Ash back yard offers a network of koi ponds with overpasses.

Jaffe: How do you use your garden?

Ash: We love to sit in the many nooks that have been created for just that purpose. The waterfalls from the pond lend such a serene feeling that we forget we are in the city. We also enjoy the outdoors from the screened enclosure that overlooks the gardens. The seasons provide such dramatic contrasts that we enjoy the view year-round.

Jaffe: Do you have professional help?Well-Cultivated Atlantans Share Outdoor Abundance 7

Ash: We enjoy gardening, but due to work constraints, we have landscapers maintain the front. We spend our time working in the back.

Kathy grew up in Colorado, and her husband hails from Iowa, where the weather is harsher and the gardening season is much shorter. “Atlanta gives us the opportunity to spend much more time enjoying the gardens,” Kathy said. “Unfortunately, we may transfer cities soon and put the house on the market. Someone lucky will inherit our Eden.”

Professional’s Practical Advice

Eugene Cohn, owner of Deckscapes, grew up in Durban, South Africa, where her family tended a tropical garden of lush orchids and anthurium. “I absorbed my parents’ love of plants but quickly realized that here in the U.S. I couldn’t re-create Miami lushness in Atlanta weather,” she said. “Thus, 20 years ago I converted my hobby of growing lavish pots of flowers and herbs into a profession.”

Hostas and roses delight at the Cohn home.
Hostas and roses delight at the Cohn home.

Jaffe: What is your niche?

Cohn: I observe how people live. … They want their whole yard to be attractive but easy to maintain without too much fuss. My philosophy is: Create focal points that you will notice when you drive in from work or look out the window having morning coffee. I plant huge flowerpots or perennial beds with rocks and ground cover that are easy to maintain.

Jaffe: How do you begin a plan?

A curved stucco wall helps creates a colorful Mexican hacienda look at the Cohn home.
A curved stucco wall helps creates a colorful Mexican hacienda look at the Cohn home.

Cohn: I find out what delights people … memories they might have. Did they love travel to Italy or England? Do they want a resort feel? We make a huge investment in our homes; we don’t take chances on the inside. On the exterior, we can have more pizzazz with the yard. If you get tired of it, we change! Instead of an interior decorator, I am an exterior decorator.

Jaffe: Give us some tips. After you set it up beautifully, how will we maintain it?

Cohn: I go for the biggest bang for the buck. You have to start with understanding the degree of sun and shade. You cannot fool Mother Nature in Atlanta. People waste money and time on the notion that large areas have to be grass. Grass doesn’t grow in wet or shady areas. So we use alternatives like flat rocks and mini mondo grass. I suggest tough perennial shrubs. In full sun, I like Double Knockout roses, Limelight hydrangeas and Dragon Wing begonias — very heat-resistant. And end with a classic finished look with all these shrubs behind a Boxwood hedge. 

Dog Haven and Heaven

Lynne and Tom Greenfield, referring to their enclosed, trilevel, three-quarter-acre back yard, said, “Other than the professional creations of the three levels using berms, railroad ties and brick steps, everything was either put here by our hands or Mother Nature.”

The vibrancy of magenta and white azaleas, gardenias, and Japanese maples spill out amid metal and ceramic sculptures of flamingos, roosters, frogs, sun bursts and a huge white wood “welcome” sign.

Lynne Greenfield swings near bearded collie Harvey Maxwell among the fountains and art of her yard.
Lynne Greenfield swings near bearded collie Harvey Maxwell among the fountains and art of her yard.

Jaffe: The best thing about your land is that your dog has the safety and freedom to roam.

Lynne: Harvey Maxwell is a rescued bearded collie who thinks he’s in the New Hampshire woods back here. Note that he has a red mark on his nose from being kissed so often when he comes indoors. On a more serious note, we have three previous dogs, mostly all rescued terrier mixes, buried along the fence line as you see the flat tombstones covered in English ivy.

Jaffe: Is there a lot of upkeep?

Lynne Greenfield’s back yard is in three tiers.
Lynne Greenfield’s back yard is in three tiers.

Lynne: We do have a professional gardener mow. Luckily our three original maples on the top berm have spawned several more, adding to the back ridgeline. My husband, Tom, installed and maintains the fountain.

Jaffe: There is frivolity among your collectibles. What are their origins?

Lynne: We love shopping for yard décor in Maine, Highlands and Cashiers, North Carolina. But I’ll admit to buying a Home Goods item.

Jaffe: I just love the three distinct play levels. There’s even room for humans to relax amid the loveseats.


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