Cottage Makeover: The Final Garden Revealed!

I hope by now many of you have picked up your March issue of Southern Living and seen the story on my Fayetteville, Arkansas house and garden. It has been so exciting to see the article and hear all the feedback from around the country. I am so grateful to the SL team for all the effort they have put into making my little home look so good!

You have seen some of it already, but now it's time to walk through the finished garden. Just as a reminder, we went from this...

To this!

The transformation is dramatic, and the process was sometimes challenging, but in the end, it was well worth it! To give you a bird's eye view of the property and garden spaces, here is an overhead plan.

The 1,004-square-foot house is situated roughly in the center of the property, which is 70 feet by 115 feet. The only other structure on the lot is an existing carport with a concrete driveway that exits to the side street. I decided to convert this structure into a multipurpose garden cabana for outdoor living and entertaining. You've seen bits and pieces of the garage renovation already, but it's now surrounded by a vegetable garden of raised beds and a series of gravel courtyards with outdoor dining and seating areas that connects the cabana to the house.

Before we get there, however, let's start our tour out front at the curbside gate. I love gates, and this one helped me capture the front garden to extend my livable space all the way to the street.

Just inside the front gate is a view of the door and front walk. If you remember, I reused the existing walk by using a concrete saw to cut the solid slab into six sections with bands of grass planted between them. The result is a walk that appears updated and more custom than before.

The front garden has matching teak benches on each end of the fescue lawn. The benches allow me to gather with friends to enjoy the space as I would any other room around the house.

Clipped boxwood, new dogwood trees, hydrangeas, hostas, and ornamental grasses frame the perimeter of the space.

Under the large front windows of the house, I created two identical boxwood parterres in an x-shaped pattern. The centers can be filled with different annuals as the seasons change. For spring I usually use a blend of white tulips and white pansies, which of course get planted in the fall. I can already see them starting to peek out of the ground and can’t wait for them to be in full bloom! After the tulips have come and gone, I will fill these beds with green-leaf white begonias for the remainder of the growing season.

Two oversized urns take center stage in the boxwood parterres and make quite a statement. I change these plantings out seasonally, as well. Here, boxwood topiaries are surrounded by asparagus fern and white scaevola spilling over the edges. There is also outdoor lighting that illuminates the urns and the front of the house at night.

Here's a close-up of the front door. On either side of the door, there are low planters filled with dwarf English boxwood, bacopa, echeveria, dusty miller, and variegated ivy.

As you head around to the side of the house, a gravel path leads you through a perennial garden to the rear courtyard. This side garden is filled with a Chaste tree, Artemisia, Russian sage, blue salvia, white dianthus, white gaura, 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia, 'Beyond Blue' blue fescue, iceberg roses, and boxwood. It's a rather loose mix of textures, foliage, and flowers, but I limited the color palette to green, silver, white, and purple.

I love the way the greens and purples pop against the dark color of the house. This Chaste Tree is one of my favorites.

As you walk down the gravel path, your eye is drawn ahead to a geometric concrete fountain I designed. It serves as a focal point and adds a modern touch to the otherwise classic garden design.

It also serves as the centerpiece for a square fountain garden that is anchored by four white 'Snowdrift' crabapple trees at each corner and surrounded by a clipped boxwood hedge at the perimeter.

Between the house and the old carport is the courtyard garden, as I mentioned earlier. Four outdoor chairs surround a coffee table to form a relaxing seating area. I designed the coffee table, made of raw steel with a Caesarstone top, to double as a gas firepit. During the cooler months, I remove the top to reveal large black lava rocks and a warming flame.

Here's a wider view of the space, including the dining area. I fashioned the table from two concrete Corinthian-style pedestals and frosted glass.

And here is the finished carport turned cabana! I use it frequently as a grill area and an outdoor dining room.

I hung outdoor curtains to frame the space and to add a bit of elegance. One of my favorite details is the "area rug" fashioned from a piece of leftover artificial turf.

Because the concrete driveway has direct access to the street, I installed a series of planters as a barrier for privacy.

I also tucked a small storage shed/utility area into the corner of the property along the fence line. This is where I store gardening tools, hide the trash cans, etc. The two old push mowers are items I actually found under the house during the renovation! I thought they were perfect for decorating this little spot.

Behind the cabana, I have planted my very first edible garden in raised beds. It is hard to believe that as long as I have been dealing with plants and outdoor spaces, that I have never grown my own vegetables. Well, it’s never too late, right?!

I also installed a wire frame along the fence for growing grape vines. These are an Arkansas native called Cynthiana, and I am expecting my first fruits this year!

Around the corner, I tucked in a small, hidden seating area and container garden. Most of the items in this space are leftover, hand-me-downs or found objects.

I placed a table in the center to help decorate the space and provide a place to display collected items.

Nearby is another table presented with a mirror and pair of outdoor lamps. I love to create vignettes around the garden that look like what you'd expect to find on the inside of a house. This table serves double duty as a serving console during gatherings, as well.

Well, there you have it—my labor of love. Check back on Saturday for my final post and wrap-up of the project. I'll be answering all of your questions about the project and giving my advice for surviving a renovation of your own!

—Daniel

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