This smaller space demonstrates simple can be beautiful

Story and Photos by Dwain Hebda

Laura Hathaway’s Little Rock yard is a study in simplicity, favoring classic, elegant design and featuring heirloom plants. You won’t find one of everything here and that’s by design according to this master gardener. 

Hathaway’s suggests the beginning gardener start with one or two flowering trees and shrubs and build the rest of the garden from there. Among her personal favorites is the easy-to-grow hydrangea, of which she has several varieties.

“My gardens bloom white – hydrangeas, azaleas, dogwoods, hostas and, of course, the annuals I buy,” she said. “I love the combination of white and green. The white blooms are so pretty at night. I also use many plants with white and green variegated foliage such as caladiums, coleus, ivy, and ferns to name a few.” 

“I love the combination of white and green. The white blooms are so pretty at night,” says Hathaway, here utilizing a white-blooming azalea to break up the green hues alongside the house.

Hathaway’s yard isn’t long on space, but the careful layout of front and back green spaces create a relaxing traffic flow with the house’s outdoor living spaces in a manner that never feels cramped.  

While not long on space, Hathaway’s yard combines various heights, colors and textures to lend visual interest without overpowering visitors. Ringing the back patio is a tasteful combination of Japanese maple, bright red azalea and a variety of potted plants.

“In a small space, you don’t want to have a million little stories going on,” she said. “The reason I love my space is because it matches my personality and my home and it’s something I can maintain. As you can imagine, I’m a pretty hands-on gardener.” 

In the nine years since she achieved master gardener status, Hathaway has not only built her yard into a lovely French-inspired oasis, she’s also worked the grounds at the Old Statehouse Museum and at her parish, Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church, both in Little Rock. There, she’s replicated the simple formula that she’s perfected in her own yard. 

“I am a traditional person, so I like a more manicured garden as opposed to a cottage garden look,” she said. “I like spans of one type of flower; I like banks of caladiums or banks of azaleas.”  

Hathaway’s yard is a study in simplicity, featuring classic, heirloom plants such as the white gardenias that brighten shady areas against deep green foliage.

“Probably if I had to say what my favorite plant, shrub, or tree was, I would say a hydrangea. I love hydrangeas; I like the variety they have to offer. I like the Limelights, I like the peegees and I installed some Annabelles in the front yard.” 

Hathaway doesn’t waste vertical or tabletop space to bring in additional elements. Stone or wrought-iron planters and statuary lend whimsy and personality while providing splashes of green throughout the outdoor living spaces.

Hathaway’s advice to the new gardener is as simple as her landscape design: Start with something that you can keep up with (and is easier on your wallet), and then expand from there. 

“I would advise someone to look at shrubs and trees first for year round good looks and for the pocketbook,” she said. “I love blooming trees like the Limelight hydrangea, Japanese maple, camellias, and evergreen shrubs. Azaleas are beautiful, hollies are beautiful, and boxwoods are beautiful. Then, pop in a few annuals here and there.”

Lifetime lover of flowers and Master Gardener Laura Hathaway of Little Rock: “Gardening is a way for me to look at beautiful things and to take care of beautiful things.”

Hathaway grew up in Memphis where her father instilled a love of gardening early on in life, a passion reinforced by her Iowa grandmother whose flower garden produced specimens that consistently took top honors at the state fair. As Hathaway’s children have grown and moved out, the garden helps feed her nurturing side.

“Gardening is a way for me to look at beautiful things and to take care of beautiful things,” she said. “I’ve got a very strong maternal instinct and I like taking care of things. With the garden, I can do that.”

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