Story and Photos by Susan Jasan

Tucked away on the east side of Fayetteville is a quaint, delightful garden abounding with color and creatures, both wild and whimsical. Open to the public, visitors are welcome and encouraged to explore and to enjoy. 

The old garden cart is filled with Begonia ‘Whopper Red with Green Leaf’ and Impatiens bordering one end of the exterior of the garden.

Jennifer Morris, garden owner, entrusted the design of the garden to Cari DeLaughter and Nathan Lopez of Blue Ribbon Lawns, Inc. The garden is located next to Morris’ retail shop, The Gift House, and the garden has not only become a favored site for shop patrons, but it has also evolved into a frequent location for special event photos for wedding parties, prom photos, anniversaries, birthdays, and more.

The sound of the fountain is magical throughout the garden.

The owner’s primary design goal “was to develop a nice garden area for visitors to enjoy with an emphasis on providing multiple focal points throughout … from the first step through the gate,” said DeLaughter. Through close collaboration between the owner, the team at Blue Ribbon Lawns, Inc., and the skillful hands of multiple talented tradespeople, what evolved is a delight to the senses. 

Urns filled with annuals anchor one end of the garden entry. Here the upright juniper (Juniperus spp.) reaches for the sky as Helichrysum petiolare, Supertunia Royal Velvet petunias (P. hybrid ‘Kakegawa S28’) and Superbena Burgundy verbena (V. hybrid ‘USBENAL5’) spill out.

Whether a small bench tucked into a corner, or the grouping under the pergola, multiple points along the pathway invite the visitor to tarry and enjoy the unique view across the garden and experience the life that abounds. 

DeLaughter explained that this project was very special: “One of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve done.” DeLaughter elaborated saying the owner was talented and creative. We collaborated. We shared a vision. The owner trusted the designers and contractors, giving them full creative license to develop the garden to into a site that was to become “pleasing to all senses … a small walking tour through beauty and history.”

The magnificent shade tree that has existed for decades on the site is a key asset to the garden. Several paths meander beneath its canopy, each area appointed with seating areas. The owner had a few garden accents to start with and the space was basically undeveloped. 

The ornamental frog is just one of many creatures found throughout. Seating in key locations invites visitors to stop and enjoy the garden from multiple viewpoints.

Through the expert skills of the garden designer, the accents were transformed into focal points of substance and style. The dog sculpture became an anchor in a bed of annuals. A frog greets visitors as they round the corner into a secluded part of the garden. A rabbit peeks out from an elephant ear (Colocasia). An Indian sculpture purchased by the owner at an auction more than 25 years ago at last found its home as a garden focal point topped off with the metal sculpture agave found at a sale in Texas. 

DeLaughter went on to explain that the fountain, previously in disrepair, was relocated and “surrounded by landscaping to give it a warmer feel.” 

The entry arch and gate entice the visitor to explore the garden beyond.

The small size of the pergola was intentional: Jennifer wanted the area to be a tiny, cozy, intimate space. With the layering of the pergola’s overhead structure combined with the expansive tree branching, one is wrapped in a secure, peaceful setting.

The small brick structure becomes a focal point and breaks up the view to the residence behind.

Boxwood (Buxus spp.) and ornamental grasses provide the “bones” of the garden with annuals providing color throughout the seasons. Hosta thrive in the shade and provide dramatic texture. Several varieties of azaleas (Rhododendron spp.), Hydrangea, and ornamental trees provide great color.

The bird sculpture seems to await visitors at the birdbath in a shady corner of the garden.

The contractors did an exceptional job of making the garden look as if it has existed for generations. From the stone wall, to the worn painted iron gate (a gift from a friend of the owner), the aged brick structures, the pavers …  all add to the charm of the “aged” garden. Even one of the birdhouses was resurrected from a trash heap, which now provides a whimsical overlook for visiting birds in a shady area of the garden. Each feature of the garden has its own unique story. 

Just as a cherub welcomes one at the garden gate, so too this one seems to be inviting our feathered friends to visit as well.

Though there is irrigation, one of the owner’s delights is actually spending time hand watering the garden. Given this design guideline, the team at Blue Ribbon focused on utilizing as many drought-tolerant varieties as possible. Though it is a small garden, the challenge remains significant to keep up with watering most particularly during the height of the summer. In the case of any garden, remember it is always more efficient and less disruptive to install both irrigation and lighting prior to installation of plant material.

A delightful cherub welcomes one to the garden as the peegee hydrangea (H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’) explodes in bloom along the fence line just behind.

So, as you begin the process of designing your garden, remember the treasures that tell stories in your life. Define your vision. Trust in the expert eyes and hands of professionals. And too, remember that any garden is evolution in process…a transformation from your mind’s eye to an ever-changing gift to the earth and all its creatures.

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