It was August 1988 when I first went to see what Ted and Pat Plomgren had done to their back yard. At the time, the couple had just started on a project that would provide over two decades of enjoyment, hard physical labor and a place to satisfy their passion for plants, collecting and garden design.
To say the least, a lot has taken place in the Plomgrens' back yard over the years (as the crow flies, they live about a mile from my house in Atlanta). They started with a sloped back yard that contained a motley assortment of undesirable trees, mainly messy sweet gums. At the time of my first interview for the newspaper, the trees were gone, and the garden consisted of a new stacked stone retaining wall with a rustic fence on top, a perennial border and a hybrid tea rose garden.
The Plomgrens' garden, which has been on countless tours, in magazines, books, newspapers and on TV, is always evolving and now includes a charming arrangement of rustic outbuildings and structures, and most especially, plantings the two never envisioned at the outset.
For instance, the rose garden is long gone because of the demand for constant spraying. And, the swimming pool the couple planned for the lower level was never built ("Thank goodness," says Pat. "We would have had it filled in by now."). At one point, the scene you see above contained a simple wooden pergola covered in 'New Dawn' roses. Where you see the patterned box garden were two stone lined rectangles that held brightly colored poppies.
The Plomgrens worked with Atlanta garden designer Jeremy Smearman who helped them visualize the different areas. In future posts, I'll show you some other wonderful features in this garden and pass along advice from the couple and their designer.
You'll notice in this photograph, taken in August, that flowers are scarce, but the garden is still beautiful. Thus the following advice from Jeremy: "Have a good backdrop for your plants. It's human nature to want color when you're just starting out. For the Plomgrens, we've used lots of Korean boxwoods to form borders. As a result, the flowers look better when they're in bloom, and you have a year round presence."