The timeless beauty of symmetry reigns in the landscape of Carolyn and James Boone’s garden in Tuscaloosa. With the help of landscape architect David Brush, the couple extended the refined style of their home to the outdoors. On the multi-acre site, David was charged with improving views from the back of the house to the woods beyond, including a grassy area for family gatherings with space to set up tents for formal affairs. “The backyard included a misshapen pool with a drab concrete patio surrounded by a heavy, prison-like iron fence, ” David says. “It was not very friendly. We basically took an eraser to the board and started from scratch.”
Topography was the primary challenge in the project. David went through intensive grading studies to work out a new plan, expanding and lowering the one flat area and eliminating the off-kilter pool. By lowering the landscape about 6 feet, he transformed the space into a lawn and rectangular reflecting pool. He then created an illusion that the water is deeper than the actual 12 inches by using a sea-blue color for the base of the pool.
“Bringing the pool up close to the house helps it reflect the house and the light through the trees, ” David says. He chose limestone for the pool’s surround that includes a lively play of fountains. The same limestone caps the columns that flank gates and transitional areas in the garden. “We added a formal yet fun factor with the coping of bigger and smaller stones, ” says the landscape architect. “In every few stones, jets arc in and visually take the eye across the pool into the woods beyond.” And with the help of Carolyn’s eye for ornamental detail and her expertise as owner of Black Belt Antiques, David embellished the limestone-capped pilasters with antique urns and planters that enhance the personality of the garden. “Mrs. Boone was essential to the success of this project, ” David says. “She really helped build on the classical intent with the sculpture, and, she infused the space with her personality.”
Classic Southern boxwoods also play heavily into the intentional formal garden feel. A sunken, secret garden on the left side of the yard is formed by trees selected for their architectural qualities, enhanced by flagstone paving. Existing stairs to the lower yard were demolished to make way for a wider set of stairs that unfolds from the house to connect to the garden below. “I wanted to make a more grand statement with the steps to fit into the overall plan, ” David says. “I used intermediate landings to connect the space and to break up the stairs into more bite-size bits instead of having a large number of steps to negotiate.”
To complement the view from house to garden, David carefully selected a variety of plants, keeping the palette simple. “I chose tighter, more conical trees that are more compact and vertical in their growth habits, ” he says. “As years go by, the end result will create a very tall hedge. The implementation is very European, which is fitting for the formal style of this landscape.”
Photography by Jean Allsopp