Not many can say their garden is so beautiful and extraordinary that it is catalogued in the Smithsonian. Beth and John Wofford are two of the fortunate few. However, they are the last to take credit for the beauty of the exceptional grounds surrounding their home. The Woffords’ home sits on a gorgeous cul-de-sac in Columbia’s lovely Heathwood neighborhood. The grand stucco home was designed and built nearly 40 years ago by Beth’s aunt and uncle, Norma and Russ Rooney. The Woffords moved into the home less than three years ago and, even while making the home their own, they have been careful to adhere to the original design of landscape architect George Betsill, changing only a few plants here and there.
“Anyone who has grown up in Columbia knows George Betsill’s work,” says Beth. “We are so lucky to have had a local landscape architect who has traveled the world and then put his touch on gardens throughout Columbia. Formal gardens bring a wonderful sense of design and symmetry, along with a calming influence. You instantly recognize George’s eye for design, elegance and formality. That is what this yard is all about.”
Regal gates on the right side of the home open up to the north garden. The formal walkway leads to the front door of the residence, which is located on the side of the house akin to the design of a Charleston home. Color is strictly limited in the design; rather, the garden is highlighted by its formality and the texture of the deep green foliage found throughout the space. Beautiful, soft raspberry-colored crape myrtles line the brick walkway and provide the only injection of color to the green space. The north garden is sculptural in design with symmetrical, clean lines. Two perfectly square areas of boxwood hedges frame grand urns with bright foliage flowing from them like glorious green waterfalls. Exquisitely manicured bushes dot the front of the home and lead onto the porch that is framed by yet two more urns overflowing with greenery. A tall gate and boxwoods line the stucco wall that provides the utmost privacy.
A small opening between the hedges leads to a secret garden, a boxed off area on the back side of the home surrounded by boxwoods and a 10-foot-tall solid green hedge of ligustrum, providing yet more privacy to the exterior space. In the midst of the space sits a copper deer statue that formerly served as a weather vane. The deer adds a bit of whimsy and, when lit up at night, adds even more interest to the visual extension of the gardens.
This area leads to the south garden of the home, which is its own sanctuary. The Georgian architecture of the home provides a formal backdrop to the landscape design. The subtle beige color of the home does not distract from the beauty of the gardens that it overlooks. When guests enter the home from the south gates, they first come upon a large, inviting pool that is surrounded by a considerable stone patio that seemingly melts into the different vignettes of lush greenery surrounding the pool area. A wrought iron bench sits nestled under the magnolias providing shade and a wonderful area to read or simply take in the peaceful views.
While the gardens surrounding the Woffords’ home are all green in color, the flower pots surrounding the pool add glorious pops of color to the space. Flowers in hot pinks and purples add pizazz to the greenery and bring a fresh summer feel to the pool. “The flower pots are my own little gardens,” says Beth. “I enjoy mixing all the hot summer colors in the pots, annuals that can take the blazing hot sun. That’s my happy time.”
That, and sitting on the loggia with her family. The covered exterior room is supported by a series of grand columns that give the home a beautifully defined outdoor living room. The loggia features a dining table and seating area, where family and friends can often be found. Outdoor fans provide a cool breeze in the space, keeping the family and their guests comfortable in the hot Columbia summer months. The steps from the loggia lead right to the pool patio. “The loggia is where we live 10 months out of the year,” adds Beth. “It’s so soothing and pretty. We can look across to the pool or to the bank of trees on the other side. I can feel my blood pressure drop when I am out here. You can’t hear a thing except the happy birds chirping. The hummingbirds’ wings whir as they drink from their feeders, and we are transported to another place.”
The happiness Beth feels in her home was instilled in her at an early age. She and her family grew up visiting her aunt and uncle’s home and spent countless hours by the pool. She looks fondly on those days as some of the happiest of her childhood. Subsequently, when Beth moved back to Columbia as an adult with a family of her own, the Rooneys welcomed her children to play in the pool. Beth and her family are carrying on the tradition in the home, often serving as the host for family gatherings. “My aunt and uncle always hoped John and I would move into their home and continue the laughter in the house, carrying all of the joy, happiness and family forward. I view myself as the keeper of the keys,” says Beth.
As a part of that responsibility, Beth finds it incumbent upon herself to maintain the grounds of the home as she found them. With that, the landscape still boasts the statues and sculptures Beth’s aunt and uncle found on trips to Italy and had shipped to their home along the way. Two angel statues bookend the walkway that leads from the pool to the lawn in the south garden. Precious bunny sculptures stand at attention to welcome visitors. All of the statuary leads to the focal piece, the striking lady statue, who sits alone atop a pedestal in the center of the back lawn, surrounded by the lovely azaleas whose blooms serve to further highlight her beauty. “George Betsill’s design carries you from room to room, but the beautiful lady at the end of the lawn is the focal point; everything leads to her,” says Beth. “That is the grand side of the yard.”
The different foliage, statues and sculpture provide additional texture to the space. French doors in the living room open up to a patio that overlooks the lawn, providing a glorious vista for friends and family to take in when dining or entertaining. The patio features a beautiful stone bench that also came from Italy and offers an ideal location for sitting and enjoying the views of all that the landscape has to offer. The stone balustrades and fruit bowls provide an ornamental frame for both the home and the garden, while the expansive stone steps lead onto the lawn. A sundial sits in the grass off of the bay window, exactly where it was placed years before by Beth’s aunt and uncle.
A classic garden never goes out of style, and a good garden design is timeless, as evidenced by the Woffords’ lovely home and surrounding grounds. Their commitment to holding on to the beauty of the past, while creating their own future, has allowed family and friends to continue the laughter and happy memories in this special place.