Right In Their Own Backyards

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Entertaining Italian Style
Photo Coutesy of P.O.P.S. Landscaping
Design by P.O.P.S. Landscaping

Dave and Donna Jones wanted to turn the backyard of their Sandy Springs home into a lavish European getaway. And with an outdoor kitchen and fireplace, a Roman bath, Italian-style gardens, a firepit and a fountain, they accomplished just that.

We knew that we wanted some sort of outdoor kitchen and a firepit, and everything else just grew from there, Donna says. They had considered adding a pool, but decided that they could do more with the space if they left it out. However, the Roman batha custom, in-ground spamore than made up for it.

Roman Bath

I watch a lot of old movies, and I was inspired by the way you always see the Romans gathering together and going down to the spa, says Dave Gatti of P.O.P.S. Landscaping, designer of the project.

The outdoor kitchen (shown below) includes a sink, refrigerator, stove, grill and storage space. The kitchen was definitely the driver for the entire project, Donna says. And the outdoor fireplace is one-of-a-kind, with its seating and mantle. They came to me wanting something unique, says Gatti, who built the kitchen and fireplace using cultured stone and tumbled tile to fit in with the Roman theme.


The Joneses enjoy entertaining, and there couldnt be a more perfect place for an evening soiree. More than 60 lights and gas torches illuminate the stone walkways and fountains (top photo). A nature trail leads down the sloping expanse behind the house to the firepit, where family and friends can relax and warm up while listening to music emanating from speakers disguised as rocks.

Convenience is key, and everything can be controlled by the touch of a button. Control panels positioned in the house, the outdoor kitchen and beside the firepit allow the Joneses to turn on the gas logs, get the spa going and control the music without having to run from one place to another.

The gardens overflow with a patchwork of color, accented with decorative planters and garden statues. Landscapers relocated more than 400 of the homes existing plants and added a variety of perennials along with an herb garden. The entire project took several months to plan and several more to complete, but the final result is breathtaking. Visitors to the Jones home, be warnedyou may think youve been whisked off to Rome.

A Mountain Getaway

Photo courtesy of Allin Landscaping
Design by Allin Landscaping

The Edwards familys sloping backyard is the focal point of their entire Atlanta home, with nearly every room looking out onto it. What they saw before last summer, however, was a blank canvasa plain, sloping expanse dotted with juniper bushes and begging for a makeover.

The family was interested in putting in a pool, but when I saw the slope of the yard, I suggested something like this instead, says George Allin of Allin Landscaping, designer of the project. So they built a mountain stream, complete with waterfalls and a small pool at the bottom thats just the right size for splashing around (shown at top and bottom). An artist was brought in to sketch out some ideas, and the project was under way.

The mountain stream, which took about a month to install last summer, has become a spectacular new addition to the home. Since there was not a drop of water in the backyard to begin with, a pump was installed to circulate the water. It flows down the hill in a stream, cascading over several small waterfalls, and splashes into the pool at the bottom, where the underground pump returns it to the top to begin again.

Waterfall ends in a small pool at the bottom.

The kids love playing in it, John Edwards says. He and his wife, Sonya, have one daughter, and they also have relatives nearby who enjoy coming over to cool off on a hot day.

Once the spectacular water feature was installed, there was still work to do. We wanted to make the whole yard look better, do some landscaping, John says. Allin Landscaping delivered. They accented the stream with a variety of lush vegetation, including palm trees and cedars. We wanted to combine tropical and natural elements, George says.

The project not only adds to the value of the home but it also gives the Edwards family a place to cool off and unwind. Now, if they feel like escaping to the mountains, they need only step out their own back door.

Personal Playground

Photo courtesy of Sport Court
Design by Sport Court
Photo by Gregg Willett

When this active family moved into their new house in Marietta about two years ago, they already knew what their plans were for the backyard. My husband has always wanted a basketball court, and this is the first house weve lived in that has really been conducive to having one, says the homeowner, who asked not to be identified. There was room for the court and the pool, and were still able to see some grass!

Photo by Gregg Willett

The court was designed by SPORT COURT and installed by Court Builders of America. Our courts are designed to give kids and adults a great place to play, says Mark Ziller, vice president of Court Builders-Southeast. This design is cushioned to prevent injuries.

The familys landscapers suggested that they install the court to be sunken into the yard. This not only allows for shrubs to be planted on the wall above the court where they are less likely to be trampled, but also helps to control the temperature. It stays surprisingly warm down there, says the homeowner. The padded surface absorbs heat, and the low wall around it helps to block out wind.

Photo by Gregg Willett

A large bin of basketballs stands at the corner of the court, plenty to go around for the familys three boys. Theyre out here all the time! says the homeowner. Its really an extension of the house, almost like another room. Its no wonder the boys enjoy having their friends over regularly. And in the warmer months, after working up a sweat on the court, they can cool off by jumping straight into the pool, which has its own basketball hoop (shown right).

Because the yard is in view of the road, the court gets quite a bit of attention. When we have people coming over, they usually see it before they get here, says the homeowner. So when guests arrive, theyre ready to play!

In Full Bloom

With a stone pathway hand-laid by a close friend, cement urns from a past generation and an arbor gate leading into the yard of a friend and next-door neighbor, Audrey Newsomes backyard is much like her busy lifebudding with rich relationships and full of appreciation for her past.

Ever since Audrey moved to her home in Avondale Estates in 1979, shes been working to perfect her backyard, stone by stone and flower by flower. The yard, partially designed by Cascade Design Group, will be part of the Avondale in Bloom tour this year and offers a colorful array of buds and blooms. One of the islands is overflowing with hydrangea bushes, while another is filled with Brackenhouse ferns nearly as tall as Audrey herself. Audrey, an interior designer, has had fun adding to her garden over the years. Its always been a work in progress, she says. As you mature and change, you want your garden to grow and change with you.

To see the garden from all angles, you can take a stroll on the woodland walk behind the largest island in the yard. The walk was an ongoing project that took about six years to complete. Each stone was brought in and installed by hand by Paul Osborne, a good friend of Audreys. The woodland walk creates a semicircle at the back of the yard, and is the perfect spot to relax on a bench in the shade, surrounded by the aroma of freshly blooming flowers.

Accessories also help to make the yard welcoming. Scattered along the woodland walk are wire sculptures, birdhouses and benches. On one side of the yard, there is an ongoing concert by a trio of musical frog sculptures, created by an artist whose works have been on display at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The amphibious musicians add a festive mood to the yard, making it the perfect setting for a fun evening outdoors.

Pedestals with concrete urns perched atop them provide an entrance from the patio to the yard. Those urns actually came from my family home in south Georgia, says Audrey. They still have the same plants in them, and they keep coming up year
after year. A potting shed attached to the side of the house provides a safe place to stash away all the tools required to keep the yard looking beautiful, and it also helps to carry on the family legacy. The glass window in the door of the shed was taken from the door of Audreys mothers home.

Just as a house is not a home without love and laughter, a yard is just a blank canvas without a lot of tender love and care. The hearts of so many friends and family are invested in this yard, Audrey saysand it definitely shows.

Avondale in Bloom
WHAT: Avondale in Bloom GardenWalk & MarketPlace

WHEN: Saturday, June 11, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.,
rain or shine
(Special free MarketPlace preview event will be held Friday, June 10, 6-9 p.m.)

COST: Admission is $15 and includes a tote bag full of goodies.

Visitors can walk, bike, drive or ride the free GardenWalk trolley service. Tickets can be purchased online at www.avondaleinbloom.org or in person at Avondale City Hall and local area locations listed on the site.

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