Text by Katie Wood
Tucked behind a 1950s ranch-style home in Montgomery, Alabama, awaits a charmingly quaint cottage garden. Rows of manicured boxwoods offer structure to the garden’s interior sections while ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas line the exterior. Designed with the concept of outdoor rooms, the garden is grounded in architectural construction.
Homeowner Elisabeth Byram and her husband, Jim, designed the garden in 2005 with the help of Mike Kaiser, a landscape architect based in Nashville, Tennessee, and Charles Harwell of Harwell’s Green Thumb Nursery in Montgomery. The concept of the space was formed after the Byrams’ only child left home for college. “When he went to college, I said, ‘I’m going to birth a yard,’” Elisabeth recalls with a laugh. “It was just a heartfelt love of wanting to create a space that I could nurture after my only child had moved away.”
That desire to nurture transformed a yard that once was just grass to an oasis that features a delightful hardscape terrace, charming patios, and bespoke spaces for respite. Serving as an intentional extension of the home’s indoor living spaces, the garden operates as multiple outdoor rooms. And for a couple who entertains regularly in their home, having additional square footage for guests was part of their strategic garden design. “Every room in the house with the exception of one room has a door to the outside,” Elisabeth says. “We entertain a great deal. I want all those outdoor rooms to be an extension of the rooms in my house. And that’s how we use it.”
For example, just off the kitchen you’ll find a charmingly cozy outdoor room with an inviting dining table while outside the main body of the home is a large terraced hardscape. “The whole idea was to create a hard surface coming off of all the rooms so the party could continue,” Elisabeth says.
When creating multiple outdoor rooms within the garden, Elisabeth found that structure and balance were key. The boxwoods are the perfect asset in fashioning order. “I love all those boxwoods, and I have millions of them,” she says. “They’re trimmed, tidy, and groomed and kind of create a sense of order, even when the seasons are changing.” And though they’re a heavy maintenance, Elisabeth admits the aesthetic is worth the effort. “It makes the garden orderly and contained all the time,” she notes. “Boxwood beds create a garden even if there’s not something behind them blooming at the moment because of the form and the structure.”
More than a dozen years later, the space Elisabeth designed as a place to nurture has since matured and, in many ways, takes care of itself. “I nurtured it and deeply enjoyed that phase, and now, it kind of just goes on its own. Now, I get to enjoy and be in it,” she says. “And when my sweet grandchild comes over, we have plenty of spaces to play.”