Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek |
Leslie Pender has a penchant for historical homes and gardens—most notably her own. The Heights home she shares with her husband, Jim, has previously graced the pages of At Home in Arkansas, prompting us to wonder what was behind the iron gates of her garden. Pender took us on a tour to share how both the past and the present play a role in her beloved outdoor space.
The garden at the Penders’ home was designed by Neil Hamill Park, a renowned local landscape architect who won the prestigious Prix de Rome in the 1930s and spent years studying his art abroad before returning to the South. “He did the former library downtown and several houses in this neighborhood,” Pender says. “He designed the brick walkways and the whole layout, including the plan for this fabulous iron railing, that is, to me, very French.” The owners at the time built on this cosmopolitan influence with lanterns imported from Paris, which Pender had reconverted to their original gas-burning state.
Work in Progress
Pender’s respect for the original design doesn’t mean she hasn’t brought in new layers to complement the existing garden. “I am very much involved, and that’s why I love working with Robert,” Pender says of landscape designer Robert Mauney, who updates the seasonality of the garden with plantings that fit its footprint. “He is so talented in design but allows me to work with him. We want the same direction for this yard; I really want to keep it in the Old South style. Every year I think she gets better and better. I already have lots of plans for her this spring,” Pender says of the garden.
Aside from the lasting design of the garden’s overall plan, the former owner’s original roses still bloom by the side gate each spring, bringing a bit of her spirit to the space. “She was a rose person. I am not a rose person, but these have been here forever, and they are so lovely in the spring,” Pender says. She has been told people would visit the garden to have their wedding portraits made while the garden was at its seasonal peak.
Many of the original flowers in the plan have waned through the years but rather than scraping them for of-the-moment offerings, Pender chooses to replace them in order to keep the garden’s authenticity alive. “I can’t tell you how many azaleas I’ve had to replant. After 40 or 50 years, plants start to die, but it’s important to me to keep the garden going,” she says.
Garden design consultant Lori Davis
Seasonal design and plantings Robert Mauney
Lawn maintenance Stewart Clark Inc.
Plants Cantrell Gardens, The Good Earth Garden Center, and Hocott’s Garden Center