Beth Williams has more than a garden, more than a backyard even. She has a sweeping oasis hidden in the middle of Columbia’s Forest Acres. One step through the back fence causes wonder as to how this home is even located in the middle of a bustling city. The vast piece of land found in the backyard was a key selling point for Beth and Jimmy, her husband, when they purchased the property in 2000.
While the home and the garden have evolved over the years, the Williamses have stayed true to how the yard was presented to them — keeping it beautiful for all seasons of the year. “We tried to take this spacious gift of land in the middle of Forest Acres and be good stewards of it,” says Beth. “You don’t have many opportunities to have an acre and a half of pure grass, and we wanted to make the most of it.”
And make the most of it, they have. The yard features a lovely blend of tropical and traditional plants. The layers of greenery and texture found in the variety of plants and trees located throughout the area provide beautiful dimension and interest in every corner of the yard. Majestic sabal palmetto trees provide a picture-perfect frame for the space, making as much of a statement as the palms lining Hollywood Boulevard. Nestled in between the palmettoes is a mixture of sago palms, formal boxwoods and ornamental grasses, a beautiful juxtaposition of the formal and relaxed, both seemingly made for each other. Three flowering cherry trees dot the landscape, creating an ethereal setting in the cooler months and a breathtaking beauty in the warmer months when its glorious pink and white blossoms appear.
Traditional crepe myrtles catch the eye alongside the patio, providing gorgeous blooms throughout the summer and remain striking throughout the fall with the unique statement made by its artful bark and red-orange leaves. One of the most beautiful trees, a Japanese Maple alongside the house, provides continual interest as its foliage changes color throughout the year. The Williamses have been sure to devote attention to every aspect of the backyard, from the house to the grass and every feature in-between — evident in the iron artwork that adorns the back of the house. The three pieces of art are situated beneath a painted arbor that covers a stone path leading to the patio.
The differing size and scale of the foliage and greenery found throughout the space demonstrates the thoughtfulness spent in planning the yard. Small boxwoods neatly line the patio and its pathways, while the larger boxwoods and fatsia provide a beautiful design and shape in the plant beds throughout the yard. Large trees are surrounded by medium plants, which are complemented by smaller bushes and plants. Around the patio are ferns and blooming hostas with a beautiful old cypress knee that is both natural and sculptural at the same time. The structured look to the space dares not look rigid, as the flow and layout of the vignettes found throughout the yard are smartly interwoven.
A focal point of the backyard is the massive swimming pool, which is surrounded by a striking stone patio. If not on the porch, the Williamses can be found at the pool — winter, spring, summer or fall — either in it or seated around it. Even the family dog, Lola, finds it hard to stay out of the pool, quickly making a break for it each time the back gate is opened. A favorite aspect for the Williamses’ children, Gray and Annie, 21 and 19 years old respectively, is the border of four chic chaise lounge chairs on one side of the pool, inviting sun bathers. Unique elephant side tables add convenience, interest and a bit of a retro touch to the area. Comfortable, contemporary teak chairs flank the opposite side of the pool, ensuring ample seating for family and friends. The pool area just begs for a party.
“We were sure to keep the age of the house in mind when we built the pool, where it looks almost as if it was constructed when the house was built. It just feels right with the house — the scale and size are a good fit for us,” says Beth. “We love sitting by it in the evening, enjoying the lighting, and taking in the fresh air and scenery from morning to evening almost every day.”
The pool is an ideal backdrop for the true showstoppers of the backyard — three large urns that sit atop flowing fountains. Each year around Good Friday, Beth and Jimmy plant Kimberly Queen ferns in the urns, under planting them with red or pink Dragon Wing Begonias. The begonias grow bigger and bigger throughout the summer, eventually draping over the gorgeous urns and wonderfully complementing the substantial ferns that continue to grow larger and larger. Beth and her family find it important to support local Columbia gardeners and nurseries in most all of their landscape purchases.
While the yard is massive and isn’t necessarily intimate, Beth has been sure to devise private areas throughout the yard to add some space for comfortable seclusion. The patio sits back from the pool, directly off of the deck, providing space to entertain, enjoy a meal or quietly read a book. A quaint shed brings attention to the corner of the yard, featuring precious Bermuda shutters reminiscent of an island. Although there is no need to leave for the Caribbean when one’s backyard is a resort of its own.
“Our vacation is being in our backyard,” says Beth. “We many times can’t think of a place we would rather be than in our own backyard. The porch view of the pool and the palmetto trees reflecting on the water is just what I need.” With all of the greenery, plants and trees, the Williamses have been careful to leave the manicured palates of grass that make up much of the area. The beautifully maintained lawn is the canvas upon which the rest of the yard has been painted.
Beth credits much of the beauty of her backyard to the glorious works of Blue Moon Landscaping. Blue Moon has taken care of the planting and also designed breathtaking uplighting, which provides an entirely new perspective of the home and yard at night. “I credit Mary T. Dial for bringing out my desires of what I wanted to see in the space and Blue Moon for executing it perfectly. It really has been a collaborative effort,” says Beth.
While the Williamses’ backyard is sizable and wide open for those who get to share in it, it is also extremely private and secluded from the surrounding neighbors. The lush greenery provides a barrier to the outside world. “The space is very quiet. We can hear the peaceful sound of the fountains, along with the subtle sounds of the city in the background, which is exactly what we wanted,” says Beth.
Because of the grandeur of the yard, the Williamses are never without a project. The space has evolved over the past 15 years the Williamses have been in the home and is a continual work in progress — some plants and trees have come and gone — but those that remain have become a mainstay. “It’s always an evolution. It’s nearly impossible to do everything at once,” says Beth, not to mention, cost prohibitive on a yard of this scale.
Beth’s advice to those just starting on their yard is to begin with the foundation and patio plants and to move out from there. For Beth, the pool was always the focal point and everything else evolved over time. “We have a few special plants that we love,” she says. “We will always make space for those. Things look better as they grow and develop over time — once they have an opportunity to meld together. You don’t want it to look like it was all done at the same time. I feel like we have continued to take this massive acre of grass and make it something interesting, layered and textured — and there is still more to do,” says Beth.
Until then, Beth and her family can stop and enjoy the view — for what a beautiful view they have created.