Pushing the Limits

Manicured landscapes and an abundance of mixed blooms create an entertaining space that invites people to go outdoors and stay a while.

Photography by Jean Allsopp

Outdoor entertaining is a warm-weather pleasure. It’s even better when you have an inviting space that seems to naturally cultivate fun. When Melissa and Randy Goggans renovated their Vestavia Hills home, they imagined an outdoor living area that would serve their love for entertaining while also providing a respite for them. “We are a total outdoors family,” Melissa says. “We don’t spend much time indoors, especially if the weather is nice.”

“People love to be outside, but you have to make it attractive enough to keep them there.”

Peter Falkner

BEFORE: The backyard offered an ample lawn, but a retaining wall too close to the house cramped the patio area.
AFTER: Pushing the retaining wall back into the yard allowed 15 feet for a new patio. Instead of being purely utilitarian, the wall was transformed into a design element.

The couple engaged good friend Peter Falkner of Falkner Gardens to realize their vision. They tackled the house and front yard first, gaining some much-needed curb appeal. Then they transformed the backyard into the oasis they desired.

The first step was to reconfigure the space by moving some dirt—something Peter did by pushing an existing concrete block retaining wall further into the yard. This reallocation divided the yard into two distinct spaces that provided ample room for a lawn and a new patio.

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The retaining wall is an improvement on the former cinder block material. The new wall, clad in moss stone, features curves topped with a trim hedge of winter gem boxwood and Korean boxwood globes. Bluestone pavers step up to the lawn, an area that the family’s yellow lab, Honey, particularly enjoys. “The patio needed to be big enough for entertaining, but we didn’t want just a large expanse of concrete or stone,” says Peter. To add interest and soften the bluestone pavers, he created an expanse of stone and Zeon Zoysia. Seating areas are poised for relaxing here and there, and the space allows plenty of room for a dining table.

Adding to the ambiance, a fountain from Elegant Earth nestles into a corner, its copper scupper directing water into
a massive oil jar. Rosemary creates an evergreen element with a heavenly aroma and seasonal diminutive purple flowers.

“We love to entertain and to have people stop by,” Melissa says. “It’s fun to now be able to call friends at the last minute on a Friday when the weather is nice. We have everything we need to sit outside, cook out, and entertain.”

Creating an Outdoor Haven

Peter Falkner says if you’re putting in a wall to define an area of your yard, pay special attention to materials. Natural stone softens a space.

It’s important to include evergreen elements. Blooming plants, such as hydrangeas, lose their leaves in the winter, but plants like boxwoods and hollies are attractive year-round.

Utilizing pots allows you to easily change out seasonal flowers and keep a garden fresh—even if you don’t have much going on in winter. “It gives a breath of life,” says Peter.

Incorporate an attractive grilling area into the landscaping rather than hiding it away. “It’s my pet peeve for someone to be on the grill and exiled from the party,” Peter says. “You can make the space attractive so that it flows well.”

BEFORE: Privet growing too close to the driveway often scratched cars. The side entrance was uninviting and hidden by an overgrown maple.
AFTER: Removing the tree allowed room to show off the Dutch door. Sweetbay magnolias replaced privet for a trim border. “They have small trunks but provide cover, and they have beautiful small blooms,” Melissa Go
ggans says.

Stick to a Scheme

Peter included large pots so that Melissa can change flowers seasonally. “I love greens and whites with punches of purple or pink,” Melissa says. Her favorite mixes include salvias, Scaveola, Angelonia, caladiums, variegated ivy, Pentas, Cuban oregano, and lamb’s ear. Border gardens feature limelight hydrangeas and French hydrangeas. For privacy, she added Nelly Stevens hollies and Sweetbay magnolias. In her raised beds, Melissa is more expressive with palettes and enjoys planting multicolor dahlias and zinnias.


Landscape design and installation: Peter Falkner, Falkner Gardens • falknergardens.com • 205.871.5999 • IG: @falkner_gardensMore Peter
Architectural plans for house: Meredith Sherrill • msherrill.com • 205.451.7055 • IG: @meredithsherrillMore Meredith
Paint: Benjamin Moore (Brick: White Chocolate; Shutters: Vale Mist) • benjaminmoore.com

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