Dirt is the canvas for a gardener’s artistic brushstrokes. Hues of green and brown layer across a gardener’s painting with pops of vivid color … yellow, pink, blue, purple, red. Nature’s flora showcases the pinnacle of artistic beauty.
Dottie Reynolds and John Chamberlain have created a dazzling gardening masterpiece in the heart of Forest Acres. Irises, camellias, peonies, lilacs, foxgloves, daisies, lavender, crocosmia and a plethora of lilies, dot their garden’s landscape, adding blasts of bold color to their “painting.” This variety in the garden’s color palette complements their diverse collection of shrubs, trees and plants.
“We gravitate toward plants with interesting textures and colors that are fun to experiment with,” Dottie shares. “I love lots of color! But I do not ever attempt to plan my gardening colors … I just let the plants do what they are going to do.”
Dottie and John began crafting their gardening masterpiece 28 years ago upon moving into their Forest Acres home from Westchester, New York. The 1950s ranch house had an expansive yard and a pool. The pool became the springboard for the Reynolds-Chamberlain garden design. “The pool was large with a diving board and slide. To me it said, ‘Welcome to the Holiday Inn,’” Dottie says with a laugh. “When John and I redesigned the pool, we left it in the same location to align with the linear lines of our house, and we chose to incorporate a lot of stone for a mountainous, natural feel.” By painting the pool floor black, they manipulated the man-made pool to appear as if it were a natural mountain brook.
During the pool renovation, they lowered the beam of the pool to accentuate the surrounding gardens. Dottie and John included a garden at the pool’s edge to soften the perimeter lines. Now, while swimming, guests can gaze up at the colorful plants that envelop the pool.
The gunite and stone pool adds a soothing water feature to the garden with its placid waters and trickling fountains. The three fountain medallions, located on the pool wall, are from a set of four stepping stones that represent nature’s four seasons.
The garden surrounds the pool, which is the central focal point. Plants with eclectic flower groupings, charming pathways, looming trees, a quaint gazebo and outdoor artwork fill the garden. This colorful terrain encompasses the center pool, akin to a vibrant forest surrounding a pond. “I walk into my garden and enter my own private world. The peacefulness and connection with nature is surreal … it is our hidden haven,” shares Dottie.
John Chamberlain and Dottie Reynolds have created a gardening masterpiece full of bold colors and diverse plants in the heart of Forest Acres.
The thriving garden not only provides Dottie and John with a serene escape, but it also serves as a link between both gardeners and their parents. As a small child in New Jersey, Dottie remembers watching her mother plant flowers and her father grow vegetables. Upon beginning her own gardening endeavors, Dottie longed to plant flowers that blossomed under her mother’s green thumb, while John wanted to implement gardening techniques he learned from his mother, who gardened into her late 80s.
Living in South Carolina places Dottie in a drastically different gardening zone than New Jersey, yet Dottie welcomes the challenge. “It has been tricky, but I include peonies and lilacs in my garden. Lilacs were my mother’s favorite flowers, as well as mine, and I love walking outside and smelling the blooms. They are so pretty!” Dottie exclaims.
Dottie and John also cherish the Southern influences on the garden. When their 1950s ranch house was first constructed, it lacked air conditioning. Thus in summer months, when humidity thickened the hot air, the previous homeowners planted tea olives near the windows. When a breeze wafted through the home, it carried their sweet scent throughout the house, which offered a refreshing respite from the sticky smells of heavy heat and sweat. Dottie and John still enjoy the fragrant aromas of the tea olive blossoms, but have since updated the home to have air conditioning.
The unique variety of flowers is not the singular attraction in their garden. Outdoor artwork and furniture enhance the colorful blooms. These intriguing statement pieces intertwine with nature to create a spectacular landscape, which Dottie refers to as her “outdoor rooms.”
In one garden nook, metal spheres transform an arrangement of plants into a sculptural exhibit. The delicate design of the balls complements the surrounding plants, yet the silver color contrasts with the vivid red shoots growing behind, which adds wonderful visual variety. “We lost a large, old juniper plant and began brainstorming possibilities for the newly vacant area. I asked myself, ‘What would be interesting that isn’t a plant?’ I then toyed with the idea of getting a pretty pot, but I needed something like a big sphere! These metal balls accent the space perfectly,” explains Dottie.
Dottie and John appreciate the simple charm of artwork and thus incorporate art throughout their garden. Subtle pieces become visible while walking down a pathway or rounding a corner into an unexplored alcove. “Different textures, shapes and colors throughout the garden add variation. It is nice when you have an area to rest your eyes,” she says.
In the Reynolds-Chamberlain Mediterranean garden, an outdoor canvas reproduction of Water Lilies by Claude Monet decorates the shaded area. This renowned painting series, dated 1920-1926, miraculously captures the exotic beauty of nature’s water blossoms. By placing this Monet masterpiece in a natural setting, Dottie and John recognize the complimentary relationship between gardening and painting, and thus nature and art. “Art adds interest, surprise and texture to a garden. It allows a human touch,” says Dottie.
She adds with a chuckle, “As guests pass through the Mediterranean garden, John points to the Water Lilies, shrugs and says, ‘Yes, it’s just a little thing I painted.’”
Throughout the garden, Dottie and John also include unique outdoor furniture. Depending on the space size, they add a variety of furniture conducive for either group gatherings or solitary time. Each spot offers a different perspective of the garden. “The farther back into the garden, the higher the elevation,” Dottie explains.
On the stone pool patio, an Italian conversation table serves a dual function as outdoor art and furniture. A hand-painted volcanic stone table from Deruta, Italy, the table mimics the pattern of flowers and vines in nature. “John and I spent some time in Spoleto, Umbria, Italy and visited the little town of Deruta, which is famous for these tables and ceramics,” Dottie says.
Dottie and John toil and enjoy the trials and triumphs of gardening. They reap the benefits of arduous gardening labor when new bulbs blossom and different plants thrive. “Nothing compares to the satisfaction of gardening and seeing the product of your hard work,” Dottie says. “The best part of being a gardener is being blissfully consumed by the peace and serenity your garden provides.”
Gardens have a rare ability to calm a person’s restless mind. Yet, they also fulfill a person’s senses — touch and feel coarse or silky textures, smell and experience floral aromas, eat and taste tangy or bitter edible flowers and fruit, listen and hear the chirping of birds or humming of bees … look and view nature’s splendor.