Hidden Gem

Minutes away from the bustle of Buckhead, an enchanting backyard sanctuary reveals itself thanks to intrepid homeowners and the care of Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts

“When Don and I bought this house, the backyard was basically a garage with a high roof,” explains Debbie Swann. “That was the ‘view’ from the windows. And the rest was very wooded and frankly a mess.” Undeterred, the Swanns set out to completely transform the half-acre space, tackling project after project until a truly inviting and tranquil garden came to life. First, the garage was removed and paths were created to give structure to the woodlands. “We started with a path on one side of the pool, and then three years later, we added an additional path and this continued until we had it completed. Not that you’re ever really finished with a garden,” notes Debbie. 

The paths point to unexpected treasures throughout the garden, such as a large cherub fountain presiding over the pool and its trellised walls, in addition to a Doric-columned folly with a mirrored arch, which reflects the lush plantings and adds structure to the layered rear landscape. Another path leads to a stone bench in a secluded wooded area with hostas and other shade-loving plants. 

Closer to the pool is a faux-bois seating area—the perfect spot to have a coffee and contemplate the garden and its many visitors. “We feel like we are in the country even though we are just around the corner from the Atlanta History Center,” says Debbie. “We’ve had deer, fox and even an enormous hawk—he was checking out his reflection in the mirror! And with the fountains, you can’t hear any traffic, so it truly is an escape.” 

Debbie favors classical gardens with formality and structure, but there is still a sense of abandon at times in its more wooded sections. Garden statuary is a passion—sources include Architectural Accents and Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts—and in key spots they have adorned the garden with cherubs, an antique saddle stone (a mushroom-shaped stone used as a support piece in the past) and an orb of cement covered with moss. 

When choosing plants, especially those that thrive in the shade, the Swanns enlisted Daniel Cleveland of Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts. “He has been an enormous help. We’ve lost trees and had moles eat the roots of plants. We’ve had to rethink areas over time,” says Debbie. “A garden is never constant, it is always evolving and provides challenges at times, but I couldn’t imagine our home without one.”

LANDSCAPE CONTRIBUTOR Daniel Cleveland, Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts. (404) 233-3400; boxwoodsonline.com