Text by Vicki Ingham
Tucked into the side of Lookout Mountain, Sue Chamberlain’s garden blooms from spring through fall with a lush profusion of flowering shrubs, old-fashioned perennials, and stacked containers of annuals. It’s a gorgeous little piece of paradise that she began developing 20 years ago and has been nurturing ever since.
“Most people decorate the house first, but I did the garden,” she says. Creating it required bringing in bulldozers to dig out a 50×30-foot area on the mountainside below the house. She replaced the sticky clay soil with humus and organic matter. Then she devised a design that would be as attractive from the house above as from within the garden itself. “It had to have good bones,” she explains. Lines and curves needed to flow and be pleasing, regardless of season or types of plants.
Along with graceful curves, water features, and architectural focal points, Sue used contrasting materials to define two intimate spaces. One is formal, with brick paving and topiaries, and the other is informal, with flagstone, stacked-stone walls, and beds over-flowing with flowers. When a storm took out some mature trees, Sue designed a pergola to exactly follow the curves of the beds and shelter the shade-loving plants. The pergola adds to the year-round visual appeal and provides a support for ornate cottage windows that hang as a backdrop for the plants. They’re a witty accent that enhances the sense of being in an outdoor room.
From early spring through late fall, evenings find Sue puttering in the garden until well past sunset. “It’s my passion,” she says simply. “I like to watch things grow.”