This charming front yard, surrounded by lush hedges, is an oasis of privacy in the big city.
Home Sweet Home
The first things you notice as you pull up to Anne and Andy Sheldon's home are the windows--not the ones in the house but the ones in the hedge. Mounted on a shelf of clipped Korean boxwoods, they give you a view into the front yard behind, whetting your appetite for the visual feast that awaits.
photo: Herbs, ground covers, flowers, and vines adorn the front entry. They provide year-round color without hiding the attractive house.
A Secret Garden
And what a feast it is! Between the hedge and house lies a secret garden of barely 1,200 square feet that you enter from the driveway. Herbs and flowers spill onto its floor of slate pavers set into gravel. Pots of all sizes and shapes decorate the steps and nestle among the borders. In a corner, chairs and a table beckon you to sit. A few feet away, a fountain gurgles while bearded irises and old roses hang a sweet-scented curtain in the still spring air.
From Lawn to Garden
Things didn't look like this when the Sheldons moved in. "There was a Bermuda grass lawn in front, blue rug creeping junipers, and two lollipop-shaped Burford hollies on each side of the house," recalls Anne. "That was it."
photo: Pansy, geranium, purple alum root, and yellow creeping Jenny provide lots of variety in one container.
Peace & Quiet
First order of business: screening the house and yard from the busy street where neighbors parked. "I didn't want to be sitting in the yard looking at cars," she explains. "Putting in the boxwood hedge created an extended living room." Started from 1-gallon plants, the boxwoods reached 5 feet tall in four years.
photo: Painted to match the house trim, window frames set into the corner of the hedge give a tantalizing glimpse into the garden while also allowing air to pass through. This painted obelisk adds a vertical dimension.
The Perfect Carpet
A new room needed new carpet. Out went grass and junipers; in came annuals, perennials, bulbs, shrubs, and vines. Adding pavers, gravel, a hedge, and a Japanese cryptomeria on one side created a microclimate significantly milder than Atlanta normally is supposed to be. "I can grow all of my Mediterranean cooking herbs--thyme, winter savory, marjoram, rosemary, and bay," Anne says. She also grows chives and parsley.
photo: Golden thyme spreads between and around the pavers, adding color and soft texture.
Inviting You In
Nearly all visitors to the garden come away delighted and amazed. Anne credits its defined shape and small scale. "Often when people put a garden out front, there isn't a structure that contains it, but people can relate to and understand this kind of garden," she observes. "They don't feel it's beyond their capabilities. They feel it's a garden that invites you to come in and sit--one that is lived in, not just looked at."
photo: Love-in-a-mist and Gloriosa Daisy Strain come back year after year from seed.
Tips for Beginners
"Hidden Garden" is from the April 2008 issue of Southern Living.