Originally created 06/29/01

Backyard paradise



Debra Allison is an interior designer, and husband Tom Allison is an engineer. She comes up with the ideas for the yard, and he makes them happen.

"I do a lot of the flowers," Mrs. Allison said. "We're both gardeners, but he's the engineer behind it all."

The centerpiece of the landscape is a stream and ponds the Allisons created about three years ago at their home in Watervale subdivision in Martinez. It required 4 1/2 tons of rock and lots of digging by Mr. Allison.

The flowing water can be heard from the street. The clear water flows down the natural slope of the yard through several shady pools before hitting the main pool.

"If you look at any sun ponds, you can't see the bottom because it is so green," Mr. Allison said. "I don't do anything to this, and it is crystal clear. It looks like drinking water."

His only worry is algae in the spring, which a few chunks of algae killer easily take care of. They only have to clean some filters once or twice a week. The rest is all enjoyment.

"The thing that has been really nice is how low-maintenance it has been," Mrs. Allison said. "It doesn't look like it would be low maintenance, but it truly has been. We enjoy coming out here and fussing with it. We enjoy putting time into it. But it doesn't consume us. It's enough to be enjoyable."

The stream is surrounded by an extensive shade garden, including caladiums, hostas, ferns, impatiens and lots of ivy. Water celery and elephant ears thrive in the water.

"The elephant ears love the water," Mr. Allison said. "They grow better in the water than in the ground."

Seasonal flowers such as impatiens line some of the stream and are replaced by pansies in the winter.

The Allisons moved to Martinez from Iowa 10 years ago. Once in Georgia, they caught the gardening bug.

"I guess it was in our blood and we didn't know it," Mrs. Allison said. "We don't have a voice of reason because one of us is as bad as the other."

They have spent a lot of time amending soil for planting. Shortly after moving in, Mr. Allison dug a hole in the yard and poured water in it, which didn't drain for more than two days. That's when they learned about Georgia clay. Heavy amending and major drainage work were necessary before planting could begin.

Now the back yard, which began barren except for a few trees, has a perennial bed and a few shade gardens. The perennial bed is filled with day lilies, black-eyed Susans, balloon flower, society garlic and Siberian and traditional irises. There is an abundance of canna lilies. Mrs. Allison said she can't give them away fast enough.

Sunflowers pop their heads up from most of the beds, but they weren't planted. They are leftovers from the bird feeders.

An arch over the perennial bed has blue morning glory and moonflower beginning to climb it. With both climbers, something is always abloom, Mrs. Allison said.

After they moved in, Mr. Allison built a fence in front of the driveway and planted four jasmine plants behind it. Now you can't tell a fence was ever there. The thick layer of jasmine covering it resembles a hedge. It has even taken off about 40 feet up a nearby tree.

"In the spring, it's almost too much," Mrs. Allison said. "You can smell it three or four houses down. You walk out and it's almost overpowering."

Reach Valerie Rowell at (803) 279-6895 or valmac007@hotmail.com.