Whimsical Landscaping Ideas
No plan required
By JODI HELMER
Kay Minor uses cut bamboo stalks to add visual interest to the garden, as well as to provide support for other plants.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY RAYMOND GRUBB
The fence surrounding Minor’s garden, made of rebar and metal, sets the whimsical tone for her garden. It also helps keep her two papillons in the yard behind the Elizabeth home.
KAY MINOR did not have a plan.
She had no idea how to tackle the ho-hum landscape of the bungalow in the Elizabeth neighborhood she purchased with her husband, Peter, in 1991. Rather than waiting to craft a plan, she put her spade in the dirt and set to work.
The garden has undergone several transformations over the past 24 years, but Minor has never started digging with a specific outcome (or landscape plan or plant list) in mind. Instead, she experiments with color and function on a whim.
“The garden is where I express my creativity, ” she says. “I don’t sit down and think about how things should be; ideas just come to me.”
She purchased a metal sculpture from an artist in Asheville and thought the artwork looked like a choreographed dance when it bobbed and turned in the wind. So she built a slate “dance floor” around the installation.
The sculpture is one of several pieces of outdoor art in the garden. Colorful mosaic statues and birdbaths pieced together from found objects are scattered throughout the space. On the porch, an old door serves as the platform for an outdoor bed, and a clawfoot bathtub tucked into a corner of the backyard serves as a nursery for sick plants.
Even the fence around the front garden is whimsical. Fashioned from a combination of rebar and metal art pieces, it serves a dual purpose: keeping her two papillons from escaping and setting the tone for the garden, which is both beautiful and low maintenance. Minor insists it doesn’t take a lot of work to tend to the curving gravel paths, clustered plantings, and secluded seating areas.
“I don’t want to be a slave to the garden, ” she explains.
Minor used Spetchley Ivy to cover the archway in the garden. The vine is also called “Gnome Ivy, ” and is among the smallest ivies.
MINOR GREW UP ON A FARM in Charlotte and worked at several nurseries and hardware stores, where her interest in gardening grew. She turned her passion into a landscaping business. For Minor, designing gardens is more than a vocation; the work provides inspiration—and often pieces—for her own garden.
While driving to a job, Minor spotted a discarded metal glider on the curb. She hoisted it into her truck, found a matching glider during a flea market at Metrolina Expo, and created a seating area. The focal point: a concrete fountain that Minor received from a neighbor in exchange for help in the garden.