Five Gardens We Love

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Find inspiration in the backyards of our neighbors

By Jessica Stringer

Master gardener and “tree collector” Carol McNeel has close to 100 different trees on her property.
Photo by Beth Mann

First-Rate Florals

Master gardener and “tree collector” Carol McNeel – owner of the McNeel Garden on Archdale Drive – relishes pairing eclectic plants and artwork around her estate, which she believes is home to close to 100 different tree species.relishes pairing eclectic plants and artwork around her estate in Governors Club. She also has 160 azalea bushes, 53 rhododendron plants and 19 camellias. “Our garden isn’t particularly organized,” Carol says. “I mean, it might look like it to some people, but it’s not. It’s not formal at all. If I see a hole in the soil, I plant something, and if it does well, fine. And if it doesn’t, then I move it.”

Natural materials mingle with shades of green in the backyard oasis of the Eberts’ home. Photo by Briana Brough

Towering Magnolias & Traditional Hedges

Angela and Sam Eberts had been living in a converted cookie factory in Chicago, and weren’t afraid of a renovation – but every home they saw seemed wrong. Then they found their perfect fit in a 1950s home in Chapel Hill’s Westwood neighborhood. “The yard was bountiful,” says Angela, noting views of the yard from the home’s many windows as one of her favorite features. 

Evidence of the previous owners’ hard work in the secluded 1-acre lot can be felt in the comforting shade of towering magnolias and traditional hedges, while wire lounge chairs, stone and metal sculptures and a bubbling water feature modernize the outdoor retreat. Landscaper Jim Flanagan helped the Eberts curate the abundant existing plantings and introduce new ideas. “It’s so peaceful out there,” says Sam. “We feel lucky to be so close and yet able to get away from it all.” 

Lucy Stokes, a general contractor, has a downtown Durham loft with an amazing garden and water feature.
Photo by Beth Mann

Urban Oasis

Lucy Stokes, a general contractor, had the idea to build a loft downtown with husband Bill Stokes during a renovation project. She and her brother Alston Gardner acquired three buildings near Five Points in early 2015. The process of converting one building (formerly the home of Kimbrell’s Furniture) into office space inspired Lucy. “After being here every day working on the place, I fell in love with it,” she says. One of the highlights is the garden with views of the Bull City and a water feature.

Ilene and Jim Hadler found their "unicorn house" in Durham's Trinity Park.
Photo by Briana Brough

Lush & Lovely

Ilene and Jim Hadler found their “unicorn house” in Durham’s Trinity Park on a small compound that was once a farm.  “Having never gardened before, suddenly we are planting apricot trees, putting in an herb garden for the compound to enjoy, growing and eating our own vegetables. I discovered the joy of making fairy gardens using miniature Japanese trees,” Ilene says. “These little container garden worlds have become a real source of fascination and wonder for both the compound and neighborhood children who like to come over and play with them.” 


BuildSense Inc.'s residential project in Watts-Hillandale.

Modern Marvel

BuildSense Inc.’s residential project in Watts-Hillandale was completed in 2006, and it was the first certified green house in North Carolina using the predecessor to the National Green Building Standard. We love how the contemporary build almost disappears into the landscape.

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Jessica Stringer

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