The ice storm of 2004 destroyed several trees at Mary and Joe Byrd's Evans home, but in its wake they created an incredible walled garden, just one of many places of wonder on their property.
Their home will be featured on the 2011 Sacred Heart Garden Festival's tours of gardens in April. It's sure to be a big hit with children and everyone young at heart who loves gardens and creativity.
Driving up the private road off of Cox Road, you might be struck by the giant magnolia in the front yard and the brilliant blue and white of the peacocks milling round. That's just the beginning.
The Byrds brought the magnolia along with them when they built their home in 1971. It was just 5 feet tall then, Mary said of the towering tree that has alluring thick, climbable limps close to the ground. The peacocks, she said, came much later because she always wanted one for the beautiful feathers.
There are many favorite areas to see at the Byrds' home, and the walled garden created in the sunshine after the demise of nut trees is one. They call it the gazing garden.
A landscape designer helped the Byrds create a beautiful space that has been the scene of two weddings and a backdrop for many prom pictures this year. The red, brick walls are inlaid with gorgeous iron railings that Mary salvaged. They found a stone fountain and base that blends perfectly with the walls. A raised planting bed follows the walls and provides space for flowers, bushes and trees such as the weeping hollies that frame the fountain.
Out back of the house and yard is a large pasture. Their horse has plenty of room to roam inside the white-painted split-rail fence. The rolling landscape of the pasture provides a peaceful scene from the backyard courtyard or from the chairs under a large tree.
A love of gardening came naturally to Mary. Her grandfather was a truck farmer on Highway 56, and her father had a Victory Garden during World War II. Those were some hard times, but he always made sure they got a package of zinnia seeds -- the flower that still has a home in her vegetable garden.
On their wooded property, the Byrds opted to use raised beds instead of fighting with tree roots. Many varieties of bushes compete for attention as one walks on the meandering paths. One path leads to a wisteria-covered arbor where garden chores or a needed rest can be enjoyed in the shade.
A step or two off to the back is a stone fountain and pond, softened by water plants and encircled on the outside by flowering plants. On the other side of the area are two greenhouses and a green shed.
The path continues through ornamentals that tower above. In an area shaded by pines, Mary created a fairy garden full of ferns and azaleas and other shade-loving plants and garden art items to remind visiting children of why the area is called the fairy garden.
There is a small pond that attracts frogs and is home to a large batch of a type of water iris that has purple blooms. She has added large raised beds of hydrangeas to flush out the paths that lead to a huge bed of Formosa azaleas. That bed, which has a circular path, was planted 15 to 20 years ago.
Not far away is another shady area where a decades-old Japanese maple drapes a tea house. A cherry tree accepts the dry creek bed that seems to flow out of the tea house. There are plans to add another bed of encore azaleas along the creek bed, Mary said.
Down the path is the playhouse Mary asked a nephew to build in 1998, the year she lost her mother and a sister. She needed a project, and as the walls went up she decided it needed not only a front porch but a second story and a bay window on one side and a covered garage area on the other. A mass of lady banks roses rises up and over the pitched roof.
As she leads the way from one area to another, Mary stops to pick up sticks or straighten a statue or ponder garden concepts. With this much landscaped yard, there is always something to do.
And there is always something to amaze you right around the path.