Classic Pool Retreat

Crisp whites and barefoot-friendly surfaces turn a dated Atlanta backyard into a sublime retreat that's family friendly.
Story by Rebecca Bull Reed

Gardens, like interiors, deserve freshening. Successful rooms, indoors or out, should evolve with a homeowner's needs. However, when a space no longer works, evolution may not be enough. That's when you know it's time for an overhaul.

Teresa and John Gipson had reached that point. Their English-style garden had grown far too busy, and the expansive pool deck was a hot, glary eyesore. "We didn't want to lose the pool, but we were ready to simplify," says Teresa. The couple now has just what they want: clean, classic lines, a soft place for their grandchildren to play, and low-maintenance plants that showcase Teresa's favorite color—white.

The Gipsons' first call was to Dargan Landscape Architects in Atlanta. Teresa credits Mary Palmer Dargan with creating a master plan that is sympathetic to the historic home's architecture. Staying true to the work of famed Atlanta architect Philip Trammell Shutze, Mary Palmer's plans included renovations to the pool house, the pool, and the dimensional limestone terrace that ties home to garden.

The second call was to Gardens to Love by Marcia Weber, also in Atlanta. Working closely with Marcia and lead designer Mark Richard Fleming, Teresa stayed involved as the team brought the renovation to life. The all-white garden includes easy-care favorites such as Southern magnolia, 'Madame Emile Mouillere' French hydrangeas, 'Setsugekka' sasanqua camellias, and 'Glacier' azaleas. "To balance older, existing plants, we craned in mature 'Natchez' crepe myrtles, which anchor the four corners of the pool, as well as two 12-foot-tall arborvitaes that flank the pool house," says Mark.

As for the new pool deck, the Gipsons chose to forgo one. A 2-foot-wide limestone coping separates the splash zone from the play zone. The Zoysia lawn, punctuated by a single granite orb, is kid-friendly and elegant at the same time.

"The pool courtyard is now a classic, lifelong landscape design and meets the needs of the growing Gipson family," says Mary Palmer. She created the ideal backdrop for the pool and a wonderful foreground for the pool house beyond. "This garden's simplicity is so pleasing," says Mark, "and as time goes by, it gets even prettier."