A Garden for the Ages
WRITTEN BY Delia McMullen
LANDSCAPE DESIGN BY Blair Farris
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Christina Hussey
Home to Anne and Rob Schleusner and their three teens, this Myers Park garden appeals to all ages—the couple, their children and their many neighbors and guests. The Charlotte home is distinguished by the landscape’s central axis alignment and features a lovely, expansive design with both French and English formal garden influences.
Blair Farris Designs brought the project to life. In addition to being Publisher and Editor in Chief of Peachy, Blair has a thriving landscape design business. The 2013 plan began with addressing a sloped yard that descends to a creek. The entire backyard is in a floodplain, which dictated significant terracing and grading. The family’s desire for privacy was also paramount, and the finished plan includes several secluded areas for quiet reflection.
“When Anne and I sat down to discuss the elements of the project, I quickly realized that there needed to be a way to organize it all while dealing with the incredible grade change,” recalls Blair. “The central axis starting from the fountain through the house, pool and ending at the giant urn was crucial. Once this was established, it was easier for the other garden rooms and elements to be developed.”
The stately home’s entrance has a secret garden feel. A circular drive descends from a private hedge that shields the house from the street. Two tree-form hydrangeas flank the front terrace. The simple and clean foundation planting includes a low boxwood hedge, larger boxwoods and osmanthus. A custom fountain sets a welcoming, calming tone as both family and visitors arrive. “It is a wonderful sound to hear when you arrive home,” says Anne, “and our neighbors like the sound when they walk by as well.”
Anne and Blair worked together closely to achieve the vision for this stunning landscape design. As Anne recalls, “I came to Blair with specific, rather outlandish ideas. We were working around a substantial remodel and the restrictions of living in a floodplain. I shared my ideas using photographs from landscape designers I admired, including Edmund Hollander (New York) and John Howard (Atlanta). Blair and I teased out the elements and the overall feel I wanted. Her ideas included the allées, the woodland walk and the dogwoods along the side yard. While her talent as a designer came first, Blair’s reputation for remaining focused on both schedule and budget was a close second. We wanted a designer who was organized and didn’t add any drama to the already stressful process of extensively remodeling a house and yard.”
The project’s central design element is alignment along a primary and secondary axis. The main axis leads from the front door to the terrace door, pool, hornbeam allée and large planter on a pedestal. The second axis follows the side driveway through a gate, cherry tree bosk, vegetable/cutting garden and redbud allée.
The home’s upper terrace is a more formal area for outdoor entertaining. Steps to the pool level reveal colorful climbing roses along the foundation fencing. The pool is surrounded by two-foot coping, a distinctive border that is wide enough for walking around the edge or sunbathing. The Schleusners wanted a more northeastern look for the pool, so it was set into the lawn without a hardscaped surround. Two rose gardens beyond the pool provide a burst of color.
From the pool, steps lead to a large lawn. Gestural crepe myrtles on the right curve gently and pull the eye to the main allée. A curved area on the opposite side also points to the garden’s center axis. Hornbeams (with hydrangeas alongside) lead to a large, striking planter set atop a tall pedestal and cap and surrounded by magnolias. The piece, which is made of natural dry cast buff limestone, features a 42-inch wide Deerfield planter from Longshadow.
The secondary allée, lined with redbuds, spotlights a bench from Circa Interiors in Charlotte. Because it is concrete, it will not move during a flood like a wooden bench would. “I really like sitting out there,” says Anne. “You feel very removed from the world. It’s private and quiet.”
The vegetable and cutting garden features a custom armillary which is both beautiful and functional. It’s also personal—it includes Anne’s favorite line from the Book of Common Prayer as well as family initials and birthdays.
Aside-to-side axis also distinguishes the different garden areas. This line of sight includes the pool, the cherry trees and the kid-friendly sport court. An osmanthus hedge separates the more formal terraced areas around the pool from the sport court and vegetable garden.
The opposite side of the home features a “woodland walk,” a shady, natural area with stepping stones that is beautiful and serene. The walk is punctuated by a shaded circular stone platform with lounge chairs. “We jokingly refer to this area as the ‘peace circle,’” says Anne. “It is a lovely place to escape and read. I can’t wait for the hydrangeas to grow and create a colorful backdrop to the chairs.” Plantings also include ferns, Lenten rose, hosta, vinca minor and viburnum.
For casual parties, family and friends gather around the pool and underneath the porch. The Schleusners have hosted countless birthday parties, end-of-season sports celebrations, class parties and more. Kids love the large grassy field for soccer and touch football games.
Anne’s favorite areas are the two allées and the pool. “I like symmetry and basic colors,” she relates. “I also like the simple landscape design at the front of the house.”
“Anne was fantastic to work with,” says Blair. “She knew what she wanted and has a great eye. This is absolutely one of my favorite projects.”
Future projects include a pergola and pool house. Anne, who clearly has a passion for gardening, also wants to add peonies and azaleas throughout, plus more daffodils in the front. “I would also love to have a shade garden that can handle flooding in the way back. It will always be a work in progress,” Anne says. She also looks ahead to welcoming grandchildren one day, perhaps replacing the bench in the redbud allée with a play set. Truly a garden for the ages—and for all ages—the Schleusners’ private retreat will delight them for years to come.
Home to Anne and Rob Schleusner and their three teens, this Myers Park garden appeals to all ages—the couple, their children and their neighbors and guests.