Beyond the Gate

ABOVE Club Place, a gated neighborhood in Mountain Brook, is surrounded by weathered brick walls. While the walls created wonderful parameters for the garden, they needed to be softened. Kelly implemented several methods including vertical plantings and climbing vines to make them a seamless part of the garden. 

This garden feels full and abundant with a laissez-faire sense of informality, ” says landscape designer Kelly Hulsey. “The design includes a boxwood walk with a unique variety of plantings blended with statuary. The walk opens into an expanse of grass, which allows the eye to rest for a bit. It’s a calm space.”

Kelly always begins by developing her planting and hardscape plans on paper, but as projects progress and plants begin arriving, their placement gives her inspiration for the next phase of plantings. “You can almost feel it, ” she says. “You look at a space and know that if you add height it will scale it down a little bit. This house is very tall, and it’s new. The quickest way to give a home a bit of age is to add large trees and climbers on the walls.”

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The vines include climbing hydrangea with creamy white blooms and Boston Ivy, an enthusiastic climber that winds its way up the wall to create a lovely pattern of foliage. “It forms a beautiful green wall of large, lobed leaves, ” Kelly explains. “In the summer, the leaves grow so large and loose that in a slight breeze, they shimmer. They turn a brilliant red in autumn, and in the winter, the plant drops its leaves so that what is left is a pattern of vines in stark contrast to its summer show.”

ABOVE Arching over the pea gravel walkway, a Japanese maple lends hues of red to the verdant boxwood, climbing hydrangea, and perennial purple and white flowers. 


Kelly joined the team of architect Hank Long, interior designer Jane Hoke, builder Francis Bryant, and Kate Newton of Landscape Services one year before breaking ground on the project. “The beauty of working with a team at the beginning of a project is that you have many minds problem-solving together at the outset, ” she says. “And with Jane Hoke and her gifted eye for how the garden translates inside the home, coupled with Kate Newton and her extensive knowledge of plants, the 18-month project was both fun and challenging.”

Just outside the screened porch, Kelly designed a stretch of lawn that meets an oversized faux bois antique birdbath and a seating area with a weathered brick wall as a backdrop. Beyond the wall, narrow, conical Italian cypress trees lengthen the vertical silhouette. 

A hedge of green velvet boxwoods encloses the lawn, and upright cherry trees are dotted along the perimeter. In the summer, purple blooms of Russian sage arch over the hedge, while antique statues representing the four seasons keep watch over the space.

Along the side of the home, Kelly wanted to create a rhythm to accompany the oversized bluestone garden walk. She paired American boxwood with Endless Summer hydrangeas to create repetition, intermingling the plantings with the blue hues of catmint, blue-eyed grass, Japanese variegated iris, and Blue Star Creeper.

On the must-haves list was a limestone pond with a fountain. Jane discovered the perfect one, featuring a pair of geese with wings extended as if just settling on the water from flight. Sprays of water spout from their beaks in well-timed concert.

The homeowner had collected other antique and unique statuary and containers over the years, and it was Kelly’s job to incorporate them into the new garden. “Everything came together to fit the traditional look that my client wanted, ” says Kelly. “The end result is an updated fresh space with plenty of annuals, perennials, ground cover, and evergreens.”


ABOVE LEFT Tall wooden fencing and an inverted arch gate offer plenty of privacy.

ABOVE RIGHT Statuary intermixes with plants, bringing artistic elements to the space. 

ABOVE Bluestone pavers echo the blue undertones of the brick garden walls, slate roof, and weathered patina of the geese statuary. The family room looks out onto this patio area, bringing the serenity of the outdoors inside. 


ABOVE LEFT An expanse of lawn adds to the sense of calm in the outdoor space. 

ABOVE RIGHT Although the garden is small, it offers numerous spots to sit and reflect on its beauty.

Landscape design: Kelly Hulsey, Hulsey Garden Design  205.908.2932 Interior designer: Jane Hoke, Hawkins-Israel Co. Interior Design  205.879.3406 Architect: Hank Long, Henry Sprott Long & Associates  205.323.4564 Landscape installation: Landscape Services  205.991.9584 Builder: Francis A. Bryant & Sons Residential Construction  205.802.7700

Text by cara d. clark // Photography by jean allsopp

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