Rome is Where the Heart Is
Five years ago, while visiting family in Georgia, Wes Walraven was delighted to discover that the sleepy town he grew up in was now in the midst of a renaissance. Rome looked like a good place to escape to for now and to retire to in the future. And that's how Walraven and his partner, Brian Moore, came to buy Rose Hill, an old Greek Revival home there.
Named for the beautiful gardens that once surrounded it, Rose Hill, with its prominent position in the historic Between the Rivers district downtown, was just what they were looking for. However, the overgrown landscaping obscured the facade of the 1909 beauty. Landscape architect Pete Wilkerson of Scapes in Roswell, Georgia, reclaimed the grounds.
This project won an Award of Excellence from the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
The Big Idea
Restore the historic character of the front garden so its formal style echoes that of the house.
Rose Hill pictured before the renovation
They used boxwoods for low hedges and anchoring corners, dwarf mondo grass for edging the walks, Japanese cryptomerias to screen the solarium, Southern magnolias along the property lines for privacy, and flowers for seasonal color.
The first step in restoring an old landscape is deciding which plants and structures stay, which must go, and which will be added. The existing stone wall near the street and the brick front walk were critical to historical continuity and in good shape, so they stayed. Two old tornado-damaged oaks that were crowding the steps and sidewalk had to go. Wilkerson removed the decrepit azaleas and Japanese hollies in front of the house and transplanted three dogwoods to new locations. Every change had to be approved by Rome's Historic Preservation Commission.
"The design in front is really quite simple," says Wilkerson. At its heart are two flat panels of tall fescue lawns bordered by boxwoods on two of the sides and L-shaped beds of annuals on the other two. An opening in the boxwoods at the midpoint of the walk allows you to step from one lawn area over to the other. Granite cobbles edging the lawn visually reinforce its shape and give the mowed grass a manicured look. Strips of dark green dwarf mondo grass at the foot of a low hedge of light green 'Wintergreen' Korean boxwoods (Buxus sinica insularis 'Wintergreen') provide a nice contrast. A colorful flowerbed atop the retaining wall offers separation from the street below.