A Little Rock couple enlists the help of local experts—including their son—to create an outdoor haven that proves to be an extension of their home
“I’ve never met a flower I didn’t like,” Robin Parker says. Overflowing with texture and variety, as well as a multitude of vantage points to enjoy the beauty, the garden of the Little Rock home she shares with her husband, Bert, is a true testament to Robin’s word. Since moving into their home in 1999, Robin—who is an avid gardener—has made continuous updates to make the outdoor area a place the family can enjoy almost year-round. Employing the expertise of The Good Earth Garden Center, where the Parkers’ son Jordan works as a landscape architect, they have created a space that brings enjoyment and beauty at every turn.
Creating a Focal Point
One thing the garden lacked was a strong focal point. “They had a nice backyard with two patios, but the space where the fireplace sits now was unused, and we really wanted to activate that space and give them a reason to be out there enjoying it,” says Jordan, who designed the structure. For the design’s starting point, Jordan notes that he and his mother Robin, “kind of played off of each other just the way we did when I was a kid and we would work in the garden together.”
Using natural stone quarried in Clinton, Arkansas, the two envisioned a freestanding fireplace design that has become a frequent gathering space for the family. “Since we put the fireplace in, we can use the garden almost year-round,” says Robin, who adds that she often places candles or floral designs inside the fireplace’s inner hearth or firebox when it’s not housing a roaring fire in the cooler months. In place of a traditional mantel, Jordan “beefed up” the sides of the fireplace, giving space for container gardens, lanterns, and other accessories.
While the fireplace may be a focal point, multiple spaces for reflection and enjoyment within the garden are connected by a flowing layout. Two patios offer room for dining or entertaining friends. A centrally located fountain can be seen—and heard—throughout the space. Stepping stones lead to a private iron bench that overlooks a side portion of the garden—giving an almost tree-house-like view for the Parkers. From this cozy nook, one can also take in a view of the classically styled white arbor, which Bert built for Robin as an anniversary present one year. ‘New Dawn’ roses climb the structure, bearing pale pink blooms during their peak season. “Each section has a whole different feel,” she says. “There’s great ambience throughout the garden—rolling water, a crackling fire, and ambient light, thanks to the fixtures we installed.”
As with any outdoor space, it’s the flora that brings it to life. Borders composed of boxwoods and mondo grass along with an expanse of evergreen trees, including ligustrum, planted on either side of the fireplace, keep the entire garden looking beautiful and fresh throughout the year. Huge planters are also filled with boxwoods. “If shrubs are well watered, they can thrive in planters. Plus, it gives you an option to keep from changing out every container in your garden each season,” notes Jennifer Gibson, a landscape designer with The Good Earth Garden Center, who also worked alongside the Parkers on the garden. Pansies, ornamental mustard and kale, Mexican petunias, and other seasonal blooms add a finishing touch of color.
Each area and each carefully selected plant bring the Parkers joy. Whether it’s just the two of them enjoying a quiet dinner at home or they are hosting a rehearsal dinner for their son—as they recently did in the space—all of the areas are a reflection of their style and their love for the outdoors. Put simply, Robin notes, “the whole backyard is really just an extension of our home.”
TIPS FROM THE PROS:
The Good Earth Garden Center shares advice for designing a dream outdoor space
1) Containers aren’t just for annuals: Planting perennials, shrubs, ornamental grasses or even small trees in pots and surrounding them with annuals provides continuity throughout the seasons, broadens the range of texture possibilities, and gives more visual weight to container groupings.
2) Mix and match elements in a grouping: Rather than using three matching planting containers, mix in an oversize glass jar, a small table or statue to add interest.
3) Choose your palette wisely: Warm colors (oranges, reds, and yellows) exude a feeling of excitement and high energy. Cool colors (whites, blues, and purples) are more calming. Consider the existing landscape, decor elements, and how the space is used when choosing a palette.
4) Create texture and contrast: Contrast and texture are key to creating an eye-catching display or container. For example, a large-leaved plant couples well with a grass or fine-leaved plant.
5) Create points of interest: Focal points in the landscape aren’t limited to plants; placing container groupings in landscape beds, nestling a freestanding water feature among plants, or even just maintaining a large space of groundcover and placing a boulder within the space can give the eye a place to land and linger.
Landscape design Homeowner and The Good Earth Garden Center, Little Rock, (501) 868-4666, thegoodearthgarden.com
Outdoor fireplace—design Jordan Parker, The Good Earth Garden Center, Little Rock, (501) 868-4666, thegoodearthgarden.com
Outdoor fireplace—construction Miller Construction, Benton, (501) 840-5372
Outdoor furnishings and plants The Good Earth Garden Center, Little Rock, (501) 868-4666, thegoodearthgarden.com