The indoor/outdoor feel of retired interior designer Karen Fullam’s East Brainerd garden was inspired by a favorite Blue Ridge Mountains retreat.
“My heartfelt inspiration came from Gideon Ridge Inn in Blowing Rock (N.C.),” Mrs. Fullam said. “My husband, Ron, and I started going there 20 years ago for my anniversary. With its verandas and rooms opening into the outdoors, I feel peaceful and renewed.”
When the couple moved in nearly 20 years ago, kudzu covered about half their two-acre lot. Mr. Fullam, a CBL & Associates executive, spent a summer helping chop and pull roots.
Later, Mrs. Fullam used herbicidal spray to finish off the unyielding foreign vines.
Today, the Fullam garden is a cool, restful trip through wide pea-gravel trails. Under leafy hardwoods lie large naturally shaped beds of ground covers: English ivy, vinca, ferns, pinks, pachysandra, even a lengthy, thick drift of impatiens.
Dogwoods, white fountain-like hydrangeas, mophead hydrangeas, Shasta viburnum, variegated miscanthus, even a few Oregon grape hollies form a four-season shrub layer.
Foliage textures and contrasts liven an ever-changing view. Hostas with tall white stalks bloom between drifts of purple-flowered liriope for dashes of color.
“They (the hostas) are so fragrant, they’re nice to cut and put in a vase, alone, or to mix with other flowers,” Mrs. Fullam said.
A rippling fountain and pond, featuring “rescued” moss-covered rocks from the property, offer an attractive view from the back deck and a cool place to walk on a hot day.
More recently, pine beetles killed some 14 large pine trees. These trees were removed, and the remaining poplars and maples were “limbed up,” lower branches removed, to add more light under the canopy.
Last winter brought a new cedar fence wrapped decoratively around the property.
“My husband gave me a split-rail fence for Christmas. He didn’t realize it would cost more than a piece of jewelry,” Mrs. Fullam said, smiling.
Reflecting on her garden’s progress over two decades, Mrs. Fullam declared herself happy.
“I never thought my garden could evolve to this. I do it for the joy and the therapy of being out in it. But recently I went to Barnsley Gardens for a wedding and I realized I already have this!” Mrs. Fullam said.
“It’s been a gift,” she added. “I sing a lot of hymns in my garden, silently.”
Q: What are your favorite design tips?
A: I place the statues, birdhouses, and boxwood in containers for the best winter views from the house. I enjoy seeing the garden from the inside, and I can see the sculptures and pieces more vividly in winter. Also, if a plant doesn’t work, just get a pair of gloves and move it.
Q: How did you create better soil on chert?
A: I brought in bags of topsoil and made berms and planted in them. I buy bags of topsoil, whatever’s on sale. If I need to amend it, I put a lot of peat moss in it. I use mini-nuggets or shredded hardwood for mulch, depending on the look I have in mind. I recycle all my leaves. I’ve even been known to gather some from my neighbors.
Q: What is your advice for creating a woodland look?
A: I never prune anything straight (making sharp, clipped edges). I go in and out (creating a carefree line), so it will look natural.
Q: Why do you store your trowels, and clean your pick and shovel, in containers of sand?
A: If my shovels and picks are wet, I leave them them in a 5-gallon bucket of play sand to dry. And I place my trowels in a flowerpot filled with play sand, too. If the tools have already dried, I push them in and out of the sand several times to clean them. As the sand gets dirty, I replace it.
Q: Your many hostas came from a few plants. When is the best time to divide them?
A: I do it when it’s good for me, although I never do it when they’re blooming. If I can’t divide them with a shovel, I’ve been known to use a saw.