Family Fun

Story: Laura Keech Allen  |  

Margaret McConathy and her daughter Gina Garrett both enjoy getting the most of their El Dorado homes, inside and out. Each of their spectacular yards are neighborhood showplaces and family gathering centers, with pools, outdoor kitchens and all kinds of activities to keep Martha and her husband Denny, Gina, her two sisters and all three husbands, as well as their seven combined children happy. To maintain and develop their gardens, both Margaret and Gina enlisted Dixie Pittman, of Pittman Garden Center in El Dorado.

When Gina and her husband moved into their home, they were attracted by its location. “Our home is right in the heart of town, but it’s on five acres, so we really get the best of both worlds,” she says. However, much of that acreage was not usable for their young family. The Garretts’ first step was to add a pool and to begin taming the landscaping, which included a wide variety of fantastic mature plants that they were able to relocate. “There were so many beautiful hybrid strains that had been planted by the previous owners,” Gina says. “We just had to utilize them.”

Once the basic structure of the yard was in place, the Garretts embarked on an extensive home renovation that also included the addition of a spacious outdoor kitchen. But they were careful to preserve plenty of woods and green space for their three sons to enjoy. “Our house has become the gathering spot for all the neighborhood kids,” Gina says. “There’s plenty of space for baseball, football, whatever they’re into at the moment.” However, for Gina, the best part of the day is enjoying a glass of wine and the scent of verbena in the yard after the boys have gone to bed.

Gina’s mother, Margaret, began her own landscaping project with something of an ulterior motive: creating a resort-like space where her seven grandchildren would clamor to spend time. The hot tub and pool, which includes a wading area and only goes to a depth of five and a half feet, fit the bill perfectly. “We spend a lot of family time out here,” she says. “When we moved in, there was just a little patio back here. We expanded that, put in the pool, and just kept adding more over the years.”

To match their own interests, Margaret and Denny also added a putting green and a complete outdoor kitchen. “But the putting green is for me, because I’m a golf nut, and the outdoor kitchen is all Denny’s, because he loves cooking and it is the family chef,” she says. “We have fish frys and cooking contests between Denny and our three sons-in-law.”

Relaxing amidst the beautiful foliage, including a wide variety of tropical palms and more south Arkansas plants like gardenias, is the McConathys’ favorite pastime, whether they’re reading by the fireplace or enjoying the game on the big screen television. “We’re just backyard people,” Margaret says. “We stay home more than we used to because everything we’d go to a resort for is right here.”

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