Sunday, September 27, 2009


Before landscape design Sandra Jonas was an international model. A Montreal native, Sandra married and moved to Boston. Not the city Montreal is. Questioning her choices, past/present, a tree answered. Never seeing dogwoods bloom before, Sandra thought her husband attached the blossoms as a gift. Dogwood blossoms sent Sandra to Arnold Arboretum. In addition to volunteering to caretake the grounds Sandra started school & completed The Certificate of Landscape Design from Radcliffe College. Then moved to Atlanta.

Sandra, living in an Atlanta rental, searched 4 yrs for a historic home. And began her landscape design business, Recreating Eden Landscape Design. Her drive, above, in Hogansville, GA.

Nearly pristine, Hamilton House is circa 1844. The granite step, above, is from a home built during the Revolutionary War. I met Sandra when she took my class, Plant ID, at the local college.

In front, above, Sandra kept the original meadow. Adding only a few hollies for blocking a road view and thousands of daffodils from abandoned homesites. Daffodils she purchased, died.Original walls, above, 29 layers of paint removed. Sandra says, "I cannot explain how blessed I feel living here. It is humbling to know I am the steward for now. The house will go on. I will not. I feel an obligation not to change too much and pass it on to another generation historically intact."

"The house needed me to make its garden. Hope I can finish It!"

Carelessly, Sandra said, "As an aside, I started my Camellia Walk as a nice way to get to the compost area in the winter. The rest of the garden fell into place." She should have included knowing to design in axis, focal points, evergreen structure, color, line, form, texture.

Laughingly Sandra asked me if I saw, above, her lovely statue on a plinth. Until it's funded the birdbath is makin' do.

Curving off, above, from the main path, a stroke of genius, another path and a peek at the house.

See the upside down pot? St. Francis, above, is using it as a plinth. "I don't know that I have a design trick," Sandra says, "but I do find that a sharp edge between border & turf goes a long way to define a space. No matter what is planted in the border the eye is drawn to the line and leaves the calm impression of order."

A new area in the potager, above. How does Sandra design? "I always begin a landscape by carving out the different areas the client requires: a place for family gatherings, a place for the dog, an outdoor dinning area, a quiet private place for restful contemplation, a place to grow herbs for the kitchen & etc. Later these areas tell me what plants are required. If a dinning area happens to be in hot sun (because it is close to the kitchen) trees will be required for shade (or an arbor). Each area is then treated as a 'garden.' Fragrance is always important and adds yet another invisible element to the design."

A special place for the cats Sandra has lost, above, each with a cat headstone.

And a place Sandra likes to sit with her current cats & chickens.

In exchange for honey Sandra lets a beekeeper keep hives in her garden. OMG, you can taste Sandra's garden in her honey.

Sandra's plant combinations, textures-colors, are a delight.

Looking into the garden, below, from the back of her home, are bits of the potager, fruitery and pleasure walk.

See the ladder, above, it's leaning into a fruiting fig. Yes, I ate all I could grab and she sent me home with fig preserves.

True to her Montreal roots, Sandra adores France. While on a garden study tour in France she found the doorknocker, below, now at her backdoor.

"On Gardening", Sandra said, "My advice to a beginner is READ. READ. READ!! Quality garden authors are invaluable. Attend lectures & symposiums. Volunteer at a Botanical Garden, they need the help and they will teach you. Go on every garden tour possible. Sign on to a master gardener program. Get a good horticulture dictionary, Wyman's or Hortus 3rd."
I've roomed with Sandra for garden tours and symposia across America & Europe.

Sandra told me to bring an empty basket. You see, above, what she had waiting for me.
Several years ago Sandra's beautiful son, a father & husband, went to sleep and did not wake up. For almost 5 years I did not see her. She was busy with her landscape design career, and coming to terms with her loss.
The 1st bench pictured, above, Sandra named the mourning bench. It was here, in her garden, she began to heal. Walking in Sandra's garden its beauty is obvious but its strength is formidable. So is its humor.
There are many ornamental chickens wandering the grounds. Moving art!! Sandra's landscape designs,, have been on tours and in articles.
LOL at the entire model thing, above. I knew Sandra, a friendship that feeds my muse, a decade before hearing that story. Why? We're always talking gardening. Life too. Sharing laughter tempered with tears. Life is that way. So we garden.
Garden & Be Well, XO Tara


Terry said...

I do love the house. It deserves the best in landscaping. From the pictures I can't get a sense of how the house sits within its gardens.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Lovely portrait! In both word and image.

Southern Aspirations said...

lovely, lovely post. So many parts of it tugged at me and the house seems amazing- as did the gardens.

Lylah Ledner said...

Oh beautiful can't know how delighted I am to find your garden What a fabulous post.

I'm a beginner the desert of AZ.....learning and growing and delighting in getting my hands dirty - which is most of the time. My garden has become an extension of my home - creating sanctuary.

As a pastor's wife, I have opportunity to influence many woman and speak into their lives - and one of the ways I do that (lately) is to invite them to a garden breakfast (peach pancakes, fresh eggs and my French Press coffee) and it's there - they experience - often for the first time - the beauty that comes from a garden - one that touches the feminine soul. What thrills me even more - is that these younger women often go home - to start a garden - whether it be in a few pots or a few raised beds.

I can't NOT not garden and look forward to perusing your garden spots and learning much. excited woman here! thanks...lylah

Landscape Designer said...

Tara thank you for that wonderful post. One correction, I volunteered at the Arnold Arboretum for the Verification Program. This was to assure that the plants in the living Collections were labeled accurately.I was so fortunate to work with several botonists.
The only grounds work I was able to do was in my own First Garden!
xoxo Sandra

Hilda said...

I've visited Sandra's garden many times and I have to say, these photos don't begin to do it justice! You really have to see it in person to appreciate all its nuances.

penelopebianchi said...

I left the longest , nicest, most meaningful and thought-out comment; and then I wanted a preview!

"Blogger" ad wiped out my comment with their finding it again. It really disappoints me.

Boo hoo!