Before moving into their home on Forest Lake almost 10 years ago, Mary and Preston Covington had to tackle an extensive renovation of both the house and the more than two acres of yard and gardens. “The renovation transformed the dynamics of the house and gardens to best fit the lifestyle of our family,” Mary says. With two teenage girls at home at the time and a love for entertaining, the Covingtons knew what they wanted, which was to share the beautiful view with friends and family and to spend time together both inside and out.
The Covingtons removed 34 pine trees in the front yard, adding structure with clean lines provided by a long circular driveway and large boxwoods that Mary and Martha Wilson, her mother, found in North Carolina. It provided an instant mature landscape at completion.
“We wanted the front to be simple and as low maintenance as possible because we knew the back yard would require much more time and upkeep,” Mary says.
In the back yard, the Covingtons added an open porch off the master bedroom, a brick terrace and a pool, as well as garden areas around each space – all overlooking the lake. “Getting the footprint right was quite an undertaking,” Mary remembers. “I had a vision for the hardscape and garden areas in the back but for Preston it was a leap of faith, and he had to trust that vision.”
The porch and terrace are extensions of the house, with brick stairs descending to the pool area. When the Covingtons bought the property there was an old pool on the side of the house that had not been used in many years. The renovation included filling in the old pool and creating a new garden in that area of gardenias and camellias. A new Alaglass pool was then installed in the middle of the back yard.
“To get the new pool installed, a crane had to be used to get it over the house. It was amazing to watch,” Mary says. The new pool is surrounded by concrete and blue tiles with several different furniture groups to enjoy. There are also flowerbeds, grassy areas and boxwoods around the pool. Beyond the pool, vibrant green centipede grass slopes down to Forest Lake, where palmetto trees were added to accentuate the shoreline for a coastal look. “Because of the slope of the yard, we love seeing the clear blue pool water with the dark greenish blue lake water behind it,” Mary says.
In a cozy sitting area on the pool deck, a wrought iron fire pit stands by a semicircle of furniture and colorful flower pots containing lantana, verbena, petunias and boxwoods, among others. This area is inviting throughout the seasons. “During the warmer months, we put glass on top of the fire pit for flowers and to entertain. When the weather turns cool we love sitting around a cozy fire while enjoying the view,” Mary says.
A pebble pathway stretches from the pool and terrace areas, under a rose arbor, to a small shade garden and Mary’s new “old” garden shed. The garden shed was part of the original house and was moved to this area this past year. It houses Mary’s gardening tools, pots and supplies and provides a peaceful spot to work. “It’s nice to have a shady area to enjoy since most of my garden areas are so sunny,” Mary says.
The perimeter of the yard is wooded and includes five magnolia trees, one of Mary’s favorites. The lush areas along both sides of the yard give the Covingtons privacy and a peaceful escape.
The gardens and yard are ever-evolving and projects Mary and Preston work on continuously. One of the most challenging issues in the maintenance is watering. “I love container gardening in addition to gardens in the yard, but because of the heat in our area and the amount of sun we get, we have to water everyday. It takes me about an hour to water all the containers and some areas of my yard, but I really enjoy spending that time in my garden in the mornings. Not only is it cooler but it also is so peaceful, and it’s the perfect time to cut any flowers to bring inside.”
Because Mary and Preston find such great joy in using their yard and garden, they continue to strive to make it as comfortable and livable as possible.
“When I think about how I am going to design a new area of our yard or any of the hardscape areas, I think a lot about the design of the inside of our house, how we use it and then how to bring it outside,” Mary says.
While designing and making landscape decisions, Mary and Preston usually consult with Andrew Green of Green Discount Landscaping Services, with whom they have worked with for more than 12 years. “Andrew is very knowledgeable, dependable and quick to help no matter the size of the job. We really enjoy working with someone who guides us but allows us to be creative,” Mary says.
Mary attributes her love of gardening and the outdoors to her mother. “Mom always had a garden and enjoyed working in the yard. As a child I remember many many meals on the patio. It’s in my blood, and there is so much of my garden that reminds me of her,” Mary says. Another pastime Mary shared with her mother was a love of antiquing. On the many trips they took over the years, she and her mother collected wrought iron outdoor furniture and pots, among other things. Now, the wrought iron furniture on Mary and Preston’s terrace and around their pool that has been collected over the years brings back many memories.
Beautiful blue and white hydrangea bushes are found throughout both the Covingtons’ front and back yards. “One of my favorite flowers is a hydrangea blossom,” says Mary. “Every morning during the season, usually after a cup of coffee on the terrace, I’ll cut most any hydrangea and magnolia blossom that I can,” Mary says. Some of the hydrangea bushes are mature and some the Covingtons planted during their renovation. Two of Mary’s nieces had their bridal portraits taken in the garden, specifically among the hydrangeas. They have also hosted several pre-prom, graduation and debutante parties outdoors.
Mary says while her garden and the yard require constant attention, she and Preston enjoy adding new and different areas. One of Mary’s next projects is a herb garden and some tomato plants for Preston.
“All of our hard work with the garden and yard, as well as the renovations on the house both inside and out, have really paid off and only add to the happiness found being at home.”