Text by Holly Seng
Breathtaking landscapes enhance the striking architecture of Cindy and John Wise Jr.’s 1929 Georgian home, located in historic English Village in Birmingham, Alabama. With six distinct outdoor spaces surrounding the home—from a terraced garden overflowing with an abundant array of blue and white hydrangeas to an intimate plunge pool area off the main bedroom—there’s no shortage of picturesque views.
“When you look out any of the windows, there is something interesting to look at—a unique perspective of the garden outside,” says landscape architect John Howard, founder and creative director of Howard Design Studio based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Known for their work with older estates and collaboration with designers and architects, John and his team were the ideal firm for restoring the landscape of this historic property. A selection of blue and white perennials paired with clipped boxwood hedges infuses the exterior spaces with subtle French influence while staying rooted in the architecture’s history. Reflecting the home’s interiors, designed by Mary McCollister Finch, the blue-and-white scheme supports a cohesive design that seamlessly flows between indoors and out.
A covered terrace along the west side of the house serves as an ideal spot for gathering, whether to watch an evening sunset or simply enjoy beautiful views of the newly created perennial garden throughout the day. “We centered the perennial garden on the [entrance to the terrace] so there’s a sequence of flow out onto the terrace and then through to the perennial garden,” says John. Brick walkways and paths lined by hardscape ensure connectivity between each of the distinct spaces.
Coming into the project, the team encountered some existing hardscaping, which served as a core starting point as they worked to restore what they could. Brick and stone original to the garden guided the palette for new materials that would easily blend. “On a project like this, my end goal is for no one to know what is new and what is old,” says John.
The property’s oldest outdoor space, and perhaps the most enchanting, is a terraced garden filled with around 50 individual hydrangea plants. Selecting ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Endless Summer’ varieties continues the blue-and-white palette and brings forth a profusion of brilliant blooms come summertime. Essential for a successful hydrangea garden, plenty of shade is provided by expansive gingko and crabapple trees original to the property.
In a further effort to recapture the property’s past, a fountain located at the center of the terraced garden was rebuilt. While the original basin remained, the water feature was no longer operable. By reconstructing the inside to include modern mechanics and adding a new centerpiece, the team restored the fountain to its former glory.
“When working with historic architecture, it’s so important that the garden design respects the period and architectural style of the house in order to be successful,” says John. Carefully designed to accentuate the home’s exquisite exterior, this garden does just that all while serving as an idyllic oasis for the homeowners to enjoy.