/ by Brendan Blowers
/ photography by Inspiro 8 Studios
The purpose of a garden, according to the Roman lawyer Pliny the Younger, was for seclusion, serenity, and relaxation. The mature garden of Sonia Col and Linda Derector checks all of the boxes or should we say boxwoods.
“When we visited the property and walked around and saw what it provided, the garden stood out as one of the principal features of this property,” says Col. “It just spoke to us.”
Dabney Peeples installed the garden and courtyard at the commission of the home’s previous owners who said they wanted a garden that held its own with the house. Consisting of a Mediterranean- style pool, Italianate fountain, an outdoor fireplace and a large terrace, all surrounded by layers of old growth and pruned shrubbery, the garden succeeds in being what Peeples calls an “amalgam of a “Charleston style” garden and a sloping lot. Because of the grade of the property in the back, a series of retaining walls were constructed that provide proper drainage and create distinct spaces that flow together following a laid pattern of red brick. Tumbled bluestone forms risers and treads which, along with the fountain, serve as a lavish focal point.
Peeple’s acquisition of the fountain in Kent, England was a happy coincidence, “I was driving along this very windy road on my way to visit Great Dixter when I saw the small manufacturer of the fountain. I introduced myself and they showed me the actual fountain in the assembly process.”
Col and Derector, who have been the stewards of the garden since purchasing the home seven years ago, appreciate the attention to detail. “It was done with a lot of flair,” says Col noting imported stones chiseled by hand and the retaining wall with its decorative bump out. “It was overwhelming actually. I had not seen a home with such a gorgeous garden before that had been built out in such a proper and serious manner,” she says.
The lush green plants and perennials ensure the garden’s beauty year round, but it really comes alive in summer when tall trees cast moving shade and shadow over the property, while the courtyard by the kitchen warms to inviting temperatures for one of Col and Derector’s dogs “Pucci” to take his afternoon nap. Their other dog, an athletic poodle named “Gigli” loves chasing squirrels underneath the creeping fig on the side yard.
The garden has played host to fundraisers and backyard barbecues over the years, but daily use is more relaxed with congregations by the pool while the dogs let themselves in and out. Life slows down out here, cocooned and sound-buffered from nearby Pelham Road by sturdy boxwoods, hardy evergreens and accents of palm, maple and soft blankets of ivy.
Col and Derector’s first step in making the garden their own was replacing the old patio cushions with vibrant hot pink ones that reflect the couple’s bright personalities. “We made it a conscious design choice,” Col says. The cushions provide just the right amount of “pop” to go with the lush degrees of green.
Col and Derector have kept the garden in peak health by replacing dwindling holly bushes with fresh boxwoods and removing overgrown magnolias in the front that were not aging well. And they’ve added a Southern garden staple: rows of blue and lavender hydrangeas.
Future plans include moving the driveway to the side lot and adding another Charleston classic, a wandering garden, off the front porch. For now, they have everything they ever dreamed of having in an outdoor space.