A lush grassy slope is lovely to behold but not so practical for cocktails in the garden with friends. When a client approached garden designer Troy Rhone about turning the steep hill behind her home into a space for entertaining, he responded with a vision for a progression of outdoor rooms. A pea gravel area centered on a sundial serves as an entryway into the outdoor retreat. “We wanted the lower garden to form a quadrant around the sundial,” says Troy. “But we worked hard to keep it from being too formal. The casualness of the pea gravel helped with that.” The crunch of gravel underfoot also signals a transition toward a calming experience, slower and quieter than the household hustle.
Working with remnants of the exisiting backyard, Troy carved into the hillside to create a series of flattened, terraced rooms. He extended a pair of brick planters to create a raised bed that defines both the garden entry and seating area. Steps lead from the entry level up to the terrace where outdoor seating and a firepit offer a place to enjoy company.
To make the garden feel mature quickly, Troy employed some maneuvers that would defy the appearance of a new installation. Pavers and bricks were laid without mortar, and Troy seeded the steps, borders, and terrace with moss to add texture and dimension. He also planted creeping fig and smilax to soften the new brick wall. A collection of garden ornaments, including a fountain from Architectural Heritage, lichen-covered teak benches, and a coral-and-iron table with mirror above, brings antiques and old world appointments into the space.
Perennials and annuals are abundant, chosen for their quick growth, while established boxwoods lend visual weight. In the spring, purple and white pansies serve as ground cover, warming the roots of the still-bare crepe myrtles. In shady areas, a variety of hostas, ferns, lamb’s ears, and impatiens flourish in hues of green and white. Above the seating area, a bank of blue and pink French hydrangeas bloom in abundance. Further in, a grassy lawn is staked with a row of Adirondack chairs situated for basking in the sun or enjoying a quiet moment.
Thanks to the introduction of garden rooms, carefully chosen accessories, and plantings guaranteed to thrive in the Birmingham climate, the garden presents itself as a well-established landscape, grown slowly and well-tended over time.
Around the Garden
In the corners of the pea gravel terrace, Troy planted a lush mixture of ferns, variegated hostas, and Lenten roses. Smilax and creeping fig frame the arched opening which leads to a walkway down the side of the house.
An array of weathered orbs and planters complements the home’s stuccoed exterior.
A glazed planter full of herbs, lavender, and scaevola makes a centerpiece for the dining table that will last through the summer.
Garden Design: Troy Rhone Sundial: Foxglove Antiques Fountain: Architectural Heritage Mirror above bar: Foxglove Antiques. Bar table: Antiquities Outdoor furniture: Niermann Weeks