Miriam Jabour is a Mississippi Master Gardener, Master Flower Show Judge Emeritus, and member of the Openwood Plantation Garden Club who writes a bi-weekly gardening column for The Vicksburg Post.

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The Garden Backbone
by Miriam Jabour       #Design   #Garden Profile   #Hardscaping   #Waterscaping

Under the canopy of a large oak, colorful daylilies (Hemerocallis) and Knock Out rose (Rosa ‘Radrazz’) dominate the curvy flowerbed. Both are low maintenance, provide excellent color and can tolerate some shade. Beyond the bed is undeveloped land with a potting shed nearby for easy access to tools and
gardening supplies.


Many gardeners dream of a backyard that is both aesthetically attractive as well as functional. Jeff and Terri Melby of Vicksburg, Miss., transformed a grassy subdivision backyard into a retreat where they can entertain family and friends as well as enjoy quiet evenings together. Jeff, a coastal engineer, designed the hardscape elements while Terri, the master gardener, added plantings that soften the impact of stone and concrete while adding color to the landscape.

The Melby home is a two-story house with a screened-in back porch and detached carport. A large swimming pool occupies a strip of land beyond the carport with a lattice fence and landscaped flowerbeds surrounding the pool. It was always a popular spot for outdoor gatherings when their children were teens, but a part-time job in a garden-themed gift shop piqued Terri’s interest and Jeff’s creativity, which started them on a journey that changed their backyard into an exciting landscape.

A glazed ceramic urn crafted in Vietnam inspired the small water feature that Jeff made for Terri as a Christmas gift. It became a fountain and dramatic focal point that trickles water into a small reflecting pool. Constructed over a weekend, Melby used a pond kit purchased from a local nursery and stacked stones to camouflage the thick flexible liner. Terri added various plantings including moss that soften the stone ledge and nearby area.


The size, color, and shape of the ceramic urn catches the eye of all who enter the backyard area. Used for its evergreen foliage and shade tolerance, a mat of chartreuse creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) is the predominant plant near this water feature. Iris sibirica boasts intense purple blue spring blooms with small linear foliage in contrast to the low round Hosta and Heuchera. A Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) provides height and color in the background.


Water creates a relaxing atmosphere in a garden. Gold fish swim beneath water lily pads (Nymphaea), both hardy and tropical types that grow in pots on a shelf in this reflecting pool. A filter system with an ultraviolet light developed for ponds reduces algae growth.


The fountain was such a success that a larger pond was added. Jeff and their teenage sons hand dug the pond along the exterior of their screened-in back porch. Another flexible liner was used with a re-circulating submersible pump to keep the water oxygenated for the fish that reside in the 18-inch deep, 1,000-gallon pond. Strangely, no fish were ever purchased by the Melbys. They speculate that eggs must have been in the soil of one of the tropical water lilies they bought and hatched in their pool. The original three goldfish are now 22. Stacked stone was repeated around the perimeter plus flagstone and pebbles were added to enlarge and add interest to the feature as well as provide better access for maintenance.

The addition of a large patio housing a pergola and freestanding fireplace was their next project. Again, their family provided the labor. The flooring is mortared flagstone with a redwood stain used on the wooden pergola that blends well with the coloration in the flagstone. An outdoor furniture grouping near the fireplace encourages year-round enjoyment and a coordinating arbor they call “The mini me” repeats the style and color of the pergola. Containers are used here and throughout the landscape with seasonal plantings.


Lattice stained to match the pergola was added over the structure to adjust the amount of sunlight that filters through the pergola. Containers of climbing ‘Peggy Martin’ roses add color and interest to this
outdoor room.


The outdoor kitchen can be easily accessed from the swimming pool deck or the pergola topped patio. ‘Mermaid’, a very vigorous climbing rose, grows on the lattice fence near the pool and repeats the color of the umbrella beautifully when it is in bloom.


Last year an outdoor kitchen was added between the swimming pool deck and the patio incorporating the same flagstone around the sides of the bar area but utilizing a lovely turquoise blue stained concrete top that repeats the color of the water in the swimming pool.

Hardscape is defined as anything that is not a plant in a landscape design. It functions as the backbone of the design and helps gardeners to create attractive and functional garden rooms or spaces as the Melbys have done. Plants are added to soften, enhance, accent, unify and to add personality, warmth and tranquility to outdoor spaces.


A version of this article appeared in Mississippi Gardener Volume 16 Number 5.
Photography courtesy of Miriam Jabour.


Posted: 08/24/16   RSS | Print


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