Story and Photos by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon
Green is a many faceted word – it can indicate a color, a feeling, or in recent decades, a way of life. The spectacular Baton Rouge home and landscape of Tricia Day and Joe Simmons incorporates all three of these meanings. The modern house is said to be one of the most “green” in the city, with serene, sustainable grounds that feature a superb water-containment system that makes me “green” with envy.
The couple built their home and most of the gardens from the ground up on one of the few undeveloped lots in Old Goodwood. For years, Tricia had admired the ancient live oak tree and large stand of clumping bamboo that grew there. Using those stalwarts as a base, she and Joe planned every aspect of the project, from the beautiful environmentally friendly landscape with a submerged 5,000-gallon water tank and pumping system (for irrigating the gardens) to the well-designed greenhouse and energy-efficient house.
The yard is graded to keep water on site. The large concrete pavers and crushed limestone chips that form the paths, driveway, and parking areas allow rainwater to soak into the ground before it is channeled to the flowerbeds that border the property. All of the rainwater from the roof of the house goes into the underground tank, which is buried beneath the grassy berm of the front yard.
Landscape architect Bill Rountree designed the grounds, making sure to preserve the stately oak (Quercus virginiana) and clumping bamboo, creating a shade garden that is essentially evergreen year round. He incorporated many of Tricia’s favorite plants from their old yard, including Ligularia, Camellia sasanqua, and split-leaf philodendron (Monstera deliciosa) and added a variety of evergreen perennials, including several varieties of ferns, more types of Ligularia and camellias, plus one of her favorite deciduous plants, fragrant winter blooming, Edgeworthia chrysantha. Other plants providing color and texture include Hydrangea, azalea (Rhododendron), dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor), Hosta, Agapanthus, and various ground orchids.
A path from the front entrance goes by their outdoor living area to the custom bamboo and metal gate and fence enclosing the backyard. There you’ll find an exercise pool and plenty of flowering plants including Drift roses, parsley hawthorn (Crataegus marshallii), Lantana, plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides), and daylilies (Hemerocallis). Clumping bamboo screens the rear of the property.
A lush walled courtyard on the west side of the house is filled with fruit trees including satsuma, dwarf Meyer lemon, lime, kumquat, fig, mandarin, and olive, as well as flowering plants such as the native ground cover Phlox divaricata ‘Blue Moon’. Tricia adds sprigs of the culinary herbs growing there such as basil, oregano, sage, parsley, thyme, marjoram, Mexican tarragon, and mint to the dishes she prepares for family and friends. The attractive courtyard deck forms a gallery leading from the house to a roomy glass greenhouse. In winter it shelters Tricia’s potted tropical plants, including Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, and Plumeria and houses a variety of sun-loving succulents year round.
Tricia is a master gardener and former chairman of the Hilltop Garden Tour Committee. She works in the greenhouse or the garden almost every day. She says that “Joe helps out with weed control, trimming the bamboo, keeping the hummingbirds fed, etc., and anything that requires a power tool.” Their appreciation of local art is reflected in their yard, where numerous unique sculptures, metal works, and glass mobiles are skillfully placed in the design. Even the fences and metal frames for their espalier and vine supports were designed by local artists.
I certainly enjoyed my visit and was pleased to learn about several wonderful plants that I plan to add to my collection. In fact, I have already ordered a winter-blooming Edgeworthia chrysantha for my shade garden.