If you get out your seed catalogs every winter and dream of what spring could bring, then take a look at the dreams these young Boston transplants had and see it up close during the Chapel Hill Garden Club’s 2014 Spring Tour.
Melanie and Kevin Biese and their three young children, who live in the heart of Chapel Hill, have been enjoying family life in expanded outdoor living spaces maintained by Creative LivingScapes’ Annie Lewis.
The family found Lewis a little over five years ago when she was working on neighbors’ yards.
“We had talked with several landscapers,” Melanie said. “Annie was working on another house on our street and we just really liked what she was doing there. We have three young kids, and Annie had good ideas about how to make the yard beautiful and landscaped, but still usable for our kids. She made the yard beautiful in all the seasons. It is not just an April yard, but has plants and trees that bloom at different times. It is beautiful and has color year-round.”
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The couple has done a lot of construction and remodeling of their home over the past five years. They hired Weinstein Friedlein Architects of Carrboro to build a two-car, two-story detached garage addition with adjacent space for a ground-level guest bedroom suite, second-story home office and recreation room.
The office balcony looks over vegetable garden and children’s swing set. The courtyard can be seen from dining room, guest room and office windows. There is a ground-level fountain that separates the courtyard from an outdoor patio with outdoor fireplace, which, Melanie says, is now “our favorite room in the house.”
“My husband loves sitting on the patio and hearing the fountain while the kids play outside,” Melanie said.
Coby Linton was the project architect and Rod McLamb, a graduate of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, was the builder. McLamb is the owner of Spyglass Building Company with offices on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. Linton now heads his own Durham-based architectural firm, Linton Architects, where more photos of the Biese addition can be seen on his company’s Website portfolio under “gimghoul guesthouse.”
David Swanson, a landscape architect (Swanson and Associates of Carrboro), drew an original plan for the entire, two-lot yard except for the center courtyard. Swanson wrote down his ideas of how it would work, and Lewis says that she, working with the homeowners, picked and chose from Swanson’s ideas, except for the center courtyard, which was designed by Lewis.
“The courtyard is central to connecting our house and our detached building,” Melanie said. “It is right beside our big outdoor patio and outdoor fireplace. We put on a big addition by buying the lot next to us. The yard was disturbed with construction, and Annie really helped us incorporate our new lot into our old lot and have a unified feeling where it came together as one yard.”
Both Melanie and Kevin wanted the sound of flowing water to be heard from this central courtyard and adjacent patio, but didn’t want a traditional fountain or pond-type water feature. Linton designed an in-ground pebble “fountain.” Its recycled water flows from two copper faucets along the border of the bricked breezeway. McLamb installed it and Lewis chose to cover the midpoint where the water flows underground with an 18-inch by 18-inch bluestone paver to match those she chose for the path leading across the grassy area of the courtyard. The Biese children — ages 1 through 7 — call this the Hop Scotch path.
Ed Palmer and his wife Gwendolyn of Gwendolyn Gardens installed the winter-hardy fescue grass after Palmer worked with Linton to ensure the grassy areas drained away from the buildings. Palmer also installed some of the larger trees in the back of the yard. ACME Well Company installed a well for watering of the yard.
The addition was finished three years ago. The Biese family left the plant choosing up to Annie.
“We moved from Boston where we did not have a yard,” Melanie explained. “This gardening was all new to us. Annie has educated us a lot. She has great taste. There were a lot of plants that had overgrown in our Chapel Hill yard and she helps us prune and manage those plants — sometimes by moving them to another location in the yard as she did a large bay leaf plant that was under our kitchen window and is now thriving at the edge of the backyard.”
Over the past five years, Lewis has gotten to know a lot about what the family likes about outdoor living. Lewis does a lot of the maintenance. Each year she does a spring and fall update, where she is planting pansies for winter and some bulbs in the fall.
“It is nice that some of the flowers come back year-after-year,” Melanie said. “We know what to expect come March, June and October, but we like the bright colors of the annuals she chooses, too.”
Melanie says that she is a stay-at-home mom for her three children, ages 7, 5 and 1. Her husband works a lot, she says, and caring for the large yard and vegetable garden “would be a lot for me.”
“The kids and I will plant vegetables and then Annie takes over to care for plants and stuff,” Melanie said. “We appreciate being able to dig in when we have the time and like knowing that our yard is in good hands when we are busy with other things.
“We are there every week,” Lewis said. “We weed, prune, keep bird feeders filled and maintain everything. We mow when needed and make sure the fountain is kept running.”Lewis, a graduate of N.C. State University’s Horticulture and School of Design, says that over the past seven years of doing business as Creative LivingScapes in Chapel Hill that she has developed a niche.
“We cater to individual’s needs,” Lewis said. “We are not a ‘mow, blow and go’ lawn maintenance firm. We can do one-time clean-ups or full landscape installations, but we also do maintenance on a regular basis. My favorite part of my job is the people I work with and catering to each customer’s needs.”
“Annie has great taste, is really hands-on, very easy to communicate with and her creativity is super,” Melanie said.
The Biese yard is filled with drought-tolerant plants along with trees and some shrubs that have been there more than 100 years. For more photos of the Biese yard, go to www.creativeLivingScapes.com and click on “projects.”
The Biese yard is scheduled to be on the 2014 Chapel Hill Garden Club Spring Garden Tour May 3 and 4. Go to chapelhillgardentour.net for additional information.