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The Martin-Howell Home - Garden House, Perennial Garden, and Lattice Fence

Imagine the fusion of a country-French garden cottage with an American contemporary-styled ecology house of the 70s. Sound impossible? Well, careful weaving of elements of both work to create a magical secret garden retreat good for repose, herbal remedies and back-to-nature goodness.

Figure 1: Original Plans for steps & landing

The Project

Jeanne and Ken reside in the contemporary community of Boothe Hill across from the south entrance to Governor s Club in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Both are graduates of UNC (in fact they met there before getting married.) They work at SAS institute: Ken in hardware support, Jeanne in Quality Assurance.

Their tastes and concern for ecology are reflected in the design of their home. The clean, simple lines work well with the energy efficient in-ground berm construction. Inside, the eggshell walls of the home serve as a great backdrop for their collection of modern art and ceramics.

Entering the mix is Ken s love of wines (he has a wine cellar with several good labels). Jeanne s mother was French, and the two have made several trips to the south of France to visit relatives and take in the culture.
Some of that culture came back with them; for Ken it was new additions to the wine cellar. For Jeanne, it was an appreciation of the formal gardens, the use of fresh herbs and vegetables in the cuisine, and new flowers and scents such as lavender.

The task now was to blend the cultures and create a country-French herb garden safe from the occasional visiting deer.



Before &

The basis for the new garden house was essentially a storage shed on the back of the home. The space was so open as to be unusable. The roof and pad, however, were in tact and a new structure could be built in between.

Figure 3 : The Plan Presentation

Figure 4: Plan for the Garden House


The Plan

The design proposal included three projects: First the conversion of the storage shed into a garden house (shown in perspective in the proposal cover). Second, a fence to complete the courtyard feel and keep unwanted visitors out of the garden and third, the garden itself.

The Garden House. We decided to gut the storage shed, saving only the roof and rafters and turn it into a garden house. Ken and Jeanne had recently added cultured stone to the foundation walls of the main house. Using that architectural cue, we designed the garden house to have a hip wall faced on all sides with the same cultured stone. On that we would erect the posts and beams to form the framework. Horizontal lattice panels would complete the look and provide shade and shelter, yet allow airflow and connection to the garden. A nod to the French influence appears in the doorway knee braces.

Figure 5: The Lattice Fence Detail


The Lattice Fence

The fencing would be constructed of the same lattice panels used in the garden house, framed out in 1x4s and mounted between 4x4 posts. The one outside corner would be built of block faced with cultured stone to match the hip wall on the garden house.

Figure 6: The Garden Plan

The Garden Plan

We took Jeanne s basic design and enlarged the center garden to display one of her large ceramic urns. We cut the corners to give it an elongated octagonal shape and resized the remaining beds to provide the walkways and form that echoes back to a more formal manor garden. To complete that Old World  influence, we would use cobblestones to define the beds

The Contract: Once the drawings were agreed upon, work began on preparing the cost quotation. The materials included treated lumber, concrete block, cultured stone, mortar, cobblestones and paint. The labor would be significant for the masonry and carpentry work. The total project was quoted at $12,272, and accepted in November, 2002.

The Installation: Work began that Winter. Materials were ordered and the work site was prepared for construction. The first step would be demolition of the existing shed framework, followed by construction of the new garden house, the fence and the cobblestone garden beds




The Garden House Takes Shape.

The existing posts were cut loose and repositioned as temporary supports while the masonry work was begun. The perimeter was reinforced with a poured concrete footer. Block was laid round the perimeter to form the hip wall, leaving two entrances on the south and west. Cultured stone was mortared to the wall, inside and out, and the joints mortared between the stones.

Treated 2x6 boards were fastened to the hip wall as footers and treated 6x6 posts erected on the corners. A new rafter joist was set to support the roof. Once all the posts were in place, the lateral beams were nailed into position. Horizontal lattice panels were window-boxed within the post and beam frame


The Fence and Gates.

The west gate presented a special challenge with it s entry arch. Three 2x8 s were joined together and the arch cutout and assembled. The corner column was built of concrete block and faced with the same cultured stone used on the hip wall of the garden house. The capstone, originally not included in the plan, was an additional expense.


The Garden Bounty

Cobblestones form the raised garden walls and present a good contrast to the Chapel Hill gravel pathways. The fences and woodwork on the garden house were finished in a deep Kelly green.


The rich topsoil yields a bumper crop

Adelaide baby carrots, Albinstar leeks, Alpine Strawberries Mignonnette, Ambition Shallot, Arugula, Belgian giant tomatoes, Cimarron Romaine Lettuce, Cantaloupe, Eggplant Al Gua, Emerite Filet pole beans, Florence fennel fino, Fukagawa Japanese bunching onions, mache, Milano plum tomato, Numex Twilight hot ornamental peppers, pimiento sweet pepper, raven zucchini, Riko baby pakchoi, snow peas, Sungold cherry tomatoes, sweet slice burpless cucumber, Tyee Spinach and Watermelon Quetzali.


What else is in the garden?

Black Eyed Susan, catnip, chives, cilantro, coreopsis, curry plant, daylillies, French dwarf marigold, French tarragon, gaillardia Fanfare, Genovese basil, geranium, Italian parsley, lavender hidcote, lemon balm, lemon basil, Mother of thyme, nasturtium, oregano, pansy, peppermint, phlox and purple cone flower, Queen Anne s lace, Rosemary, sage, Shasta daisy, earmint, sunflower Zebulon, Yarrow and zinnias.


The Result - A Place for Rest

Under the shade of the tree is a great spot to view the garden. Sit a spell with a glass of lemonade.


Or perhaps you prefer a room with a view. Then come inside the cool spaces of the garden house. Lounge with friends or just sit back and read a book.


The west portal frames a view of the sitting area while the right portal opens to the garden and arch gate.


The Result  a harvest of treats for all the senses

Turn a backyard eyesore into a garden retreat that yields a bountiful harvest of treats for all the senses.

Echinacea and rudbekia attract butterflies to the foreground while Queen Anne s lace fills the background. Birds enjoy a drink at the bath.

Portal to portal

From the garden gate to the garden house, this is one project that renovates a little used space into a garden of delights.


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