Structure in the Garden

Gardening Italian style



Photography by Emily Clay / Styled for photography by Mary T. Dial

Colorful potted plants, Italian statues, a geometric pool, rushing fountains and a brick patio combine to create a precise garden accented with crisp lines and structure. Linda and Terry Collier endeavored to create a relaxing oasis while also capturing the essence of their home’s architecture, and the striking result of a yearlong renovation provides them with a European-style escape.

The looming beige stucco house with a double staircase in front has two identical potted Kimberly Queen ferns with vibrant red Dragon Wing begonias, anchoring the brickwork that frames the front yard’s lush grass. Wrapping around the home’s side, a brick walkway leads to the garden entrance, past large stone pots overflowing with ferns and dotted with more bright red begonias, repeating a red and green color scheme.

A picturesque patio with antiqued aluminum chairs and a table overlooks the pool, providing an ideal spot to relax. Behind the patio, a bronze statue of a woman is nestled amidst potted fantail palms in front of flourishing oleanders that hug the surrounding brick wall. “It is very peaceful to sit outside in the late afternoon and early evening and listen to the fountains, enjoying the serenity of my organized, beautiful space,” says Linda.

The Colliers’ haven has not always showcased lush vegetation within well-defined areas. Linda’s decisive style, along with the Italian lines of the house, influenced the plans during the renovation. Mary T. Dial, of The Itinerant Gardener, guided Linda through the project.

“Mary T. and I discussed two major options for redesigning the garden: tropical scenery or Italian villa aesthetics. We both agreed on basing it on an Italian style, then I left the design and plant selections completely up to her expertise,” says Linda. “Mary T. changed the entire garden from an overgrown, tropical feel to a simpler, meticulous Italianate feel.”

Linda anticipated the new garden plans with thoughts of Tuscan villas floating in the back of her mind. The old yard was overplanted and overgrown with a lot of variety in the planting material, so the goal was to simplify by using the same plant material, making it cohesive and formal and, consequently, easier to maintain.

Mary T. worked with Hay Hill Landscaping to implement the plan. “It was an intricate, confined landscape, so we had to be careful not to damage the existing hardscape,” says Fred Gantt, owner of Hay Hill. “We did a lot of work prior to landscaping – removing old soil, thinking about drainage and irrigation, getting wires on the sidewalk and making sure all materials are accessible and will fit in the designated areas. We pride ourselves on being a one stop shop.”
The finished product accentuates the grandeur of the home in addition to opening up a sheltered space to enjoy the outdoors. Large, beige columns standing on the raised patio above the pool catch the eye with their stark contrast to the brown, green and red backdrop. “Our garden at our beach home in Florida is very tropical, so I enjoy coming home to a different feel,” Linda says.

While the Colliers’ Palm Beach garden offers a different appeal than their Columbia yard, their time spent in the Sunshine State is reflected here through many items purchased at estate sales and auctions. “My garden in Columbia is definitely a reflection of my interior decorating style, which is formal and precise,” she says. “I love a mix of antiques and new, and I absolutely adore searching for something unusual at auctions.”

Not surprisingly, the main focus of the yard is the geometric pool. Stretching across most of the space, it provides the perfect swimming hole to cool off in the summer, while also accentuating the Italian aesthetics of the garden. Along the side of the pool, red knockout topiaries, a type of hybrid rose and boxwoods line the wall. The knockout topiaries are an ideal fit for the space due to their abundant bloom and easy care.

Filling the structured yard with potted plants allows Linda to easily make seasonal changes. “We have always received compliments on our garden, but we especially hear comments when we change containers for the seasons,” she says. “I love the immediate gratification I receive from gardening which is magnified through the changing beauty from season to season.”

The pots emphasize a rush of red color against the surrounding green, enhancing the beauty of the yard, while also reflecting Linda’s character. “A garden for me is an extension of one’s personality. My friends would tell you that I like for things to be perfect, maybe too perfect,” she says with a laugh.

Her perfectionistic nature shines through in the crisp lines structuring her garden. “My garden brings joy as it has a sense of order and beauty,” she says.

Linda became enraptured with gardening about 20 years ago when she and Terry bought a house in Gregg Park with a small yard. Catering to her interest in neat, well-kept designs, this yard sparked a desire to garden.

“The terrain was easy to maintain and worked well with beautiful container gardens. I like well-maintained, meticulous gardens as opposed to large yards,” Linda says. “Then when we moved to our new home, I fell in love with the idea of renovating the pool area and immediately began adding more large pots with lots of color.”

The consistent pots with a reoccurring plant and color base strengthen the garden’s impact, and defined lines of barriers and boxwoods contain the garden’s vegetation, all leading to a vacation to Italy right in the heart of South Carolina.