Sometimes a yard draws people in by the sheer size and beauty of it. A landscape peppered with flowers and hedges just begs visitors to come in and take seat. For Janette and Clifford Hospital, their yard was designed to be a sanctuary, providing a sense of peace and a moment of meditation.
Even though the Hospitals’ yard is more than one acre, their property has a series of vignettes, eye-catching backdrops that entice its visitors to pause and share a book, a glass of wine or a moment of tranquility with the landscape.
Located in the beautiful Wildewood neighborhood, the Hospitals have devoted much of their time to cultivating the outdoor space of their home, creating an inviting and breathtaking oasis. “When we bought the property, it had been vacant for two years and, therefore, subject to neglect. It was almost a wilderness,” says Janette. “It took a lot of planning. But with this luxury of space, we have been able to create separate nooks that provide a sense of privacy and seclusion.” For those whose yards aren’t as expansive as the Hospitals, a nook can be created in the smallest of spaces. And small areas can certainly make large statements.
For the Hospitals, what started as non-descript weedy areas have been shaped into shade gardens and an azalea garden. Since their retirement as professors at the University of South Carolina, both Janette and Clifford spend nearly four to five hours a day from the spring through fall in the garden.
The Hospitals are originally from Australia, where they lived in the steamy rain-forested tropical north in the state of Queensland close to the Great Barrier Reef. Their love of their home country has profoundly affected their idea of a lush garden, and they have gone to great lengths to reinvent that feel in their yard and gardens. The zeal for gardening was ingrained in Janette at an early age, as she watched her grandfather and mother, both passionate gardeners, mold and shape their gardens. “I have always loved designing and getting my hands dirty in the soil,” says Janette.
This love for gardening is apparent at first sight of the yard. The grass acts as a path to different nooks throughout the space. Those walking by the home have a gorgeous view of one of the many vignettes sitting under the umbrella of a magnolia, complete with azaleas and lush moss. It’s important to Janette that she have something in bloom year-round, which is helped by the camellias that adorn the space and bloom in both the winter and spring. She is also crazy about azaleas and was delighted when she discovered encore and ever-blooming azaleas, which bloom in the spring and through the fall, provided they get enough sunlight. “I only plant perennials,” says Janette. “I have no self-control when I go to Woodley’s Garden Center. Eventually, I won’t need to buy anymore since they are all perennials and will continue to bloom. But somehow, I always find more space for them!”
A secluded pathway leads to a gorgeous brick courtyard. Two billowy Bradford pear trees act as parasols, shading the area. Because of the shade, grass is difficult to grow. Instead, the Hospitals laid more moss, recreating the rich rainforest feel they both love so much. Hostas, fatsias and ferns dot the landscape, while Lenten roses appear for only a short time, as if to welcome spring.
The other end of the courtyard features one of Janette’s proudest possessions — an authentic Lutyens Bench — the Cadillac of all benches. The Lutyens Bench was created by Sir Edward Lutyens, a British architect who also designed fabulous gardens in the presidential palace in New Delhi. Janette had often seen and admired the benches lining the halls of the Belmond Charleston Place hotel. Her bench sits proudly under the bow of a cherry tree and more Bradford pears, providing a soft, shady area for her to often enjoy.
Off of the courtyard, grand ornamental gates lead to a large, welcoming pool and pool house that are set off from the remainder of the front space by a large, 8-foot-tall brick wall. The pool area is the most secluded area of the home, providing the juxtaposition of privacy and the ideal space for entertaining.
“To me, the pool area is akin to a Renaissance Italian courtyard,” adds Janette. “We gradually added a lot of plants in the ground, including my favorite find, the fatsia plant, which I have planted throughout the gardens.” Potted plants and benches enhance the area, providing even more dots of color and visual appeal. A published author, Janette can be seen sitting inside the pool courtyard on many of her book jackets. The couple has also hosted many parties and fundraisers in the space.
The yard has been a labor of love and on occasion, a very painful one. Enter pampas grass. The largest task to date that Janette and Clifford have taken on was the removal of two massive clumps of pampas grass by the lake. After six days of hard labor during two consecutive summers, with the Hospitals also covered in cuts from the razor-sharp leaves of the plant, the project was complete. The area was turned into one of the special nooks found throughout the yard. Each year, glorious patches of lilies, irises, tulips and daffodils appear like crayons coloring the tranquil waters beside them. Three comfortable benches welcome visitors to sit and enjoy the peaceful scenery.
The vignettes and nooks throughout the space are intentional and were created with the influence of three of Janette’s favorite landscape designs — Sissinghurst Castle Garden in England, Central Park in New York and the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. When Janette first saw the Sissinghurst Castle Garden, she was smitten. An old ruined castle whose grounds were revitalized by the writer Vita Sackville-West in the 1930s, Sissinghurst is designed like a series of outdoor rooms, a model for what Janette hoped to achieve in her gardens. Central Park and Biltmore Estate were designed by one of the preeminent landscape architects, Frederick Law Olmsted.
“Olmsted didn’t just accept the land as it was,” says Janette, “he was bold in changing and re-shaping the landscape.” She is passionate about Central Park and makes a trip there at least twice a year. No doubt these frequent trips provide inspiration for her to make changes and updates to her own yard.
The Hospitals continue to add special elements to their yard. Beautiful mirrors in creative places and a serene fountain by the pool flanked by glorious plants and flowers in cast iron pots add texture and interest, providing additional focal points all around the space. Throughout the courtyard, Janette has placed antique statues akin to those found throughout the Châteaux of the Loire Valley, of which the Hospitals are big admirers. She has spent ample time combing antique markets, including Columbia’s own Chic Antiques, looking for the perfect addition to the space. Each statue holds a special meaning for the Hospitals, so much so, that each has its own name. One of Janette’s favorites is Orpheus, a statue they purchased after her novel Orpheus Lost was accepted for publication. Orpheus sits nestled among new dawn roses that provide a glorious pale pink garland to Orpheus when they are in bloom.
The Hospitals’ yard is a result of great love and attention to detail infused with personal meanings and special objets d’art. But most importantly for Janette, the nooks throughout the yard provide sanctuary, meditation and peace. A sense of comfort and home that makes all the hours of hard work, blood, sweat and tears worth every minute.