A Sneak Peek at This Year’s Chapel Hill Garden Tour

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Get an inside look at these extraordinary private gardens, and visit them in person during the annual tour hosted by Chapel Hill Garden Club

Midcentury Home
Jane Brown and James Protzman took cues from their midcentury modern home when selecting landscaping elements, including Japanese maples and liriope.

 By Hannah Lee | Photography by Peyton Sickles

Just like Canterbury bells, forget-me-nots and hollyhocks, the two-day Chapel Hill Garden Tour blooms every other year. Put on by the Chapel Hill Garden Club – a nonprofit that “educates its [more than 100] members in horticulture, floral design, landscape design and sound environmental practice” – the tour attracted some 1,500 visitors in 2018. This year’s tour on April 23 and 24 will showcase the North Carolina Botanical Garden and six private gardens, stretching from Eastwood Lake to Chatham County, which features two gardens in Governors Club for the first time ever.

Vacation Vibes

Before James Protzman and Jane Brown moved into their midcentury home on Eastwood Lake, “it was all overgrown,” Jane says. “You couldn’t even see the lake; this was all a work in progress, as most gardens are.” Now the home, centered on a 1.1-acre lot, is the perfect setting for a number of outdoor gatherings, including their big annual Fourth of July party.

Surrounding their house are garden beds, Japanese maples, dogwoods and crepe myrtles amid towering mature oaks and ironwoods. Interconnected between the garden beds are a number of year-round deer-resistant plants, but there are other animals who like to munch their way through the foliage. “Chipmunks eat the roots,” Jane says. “The geese come in the yard from the lake. The squirrels eat tomatoes and strawberries. And then there’s rabbits. They eat things that even the deer won’t eat.” 

bird feeder
James Protzman and Jane Brown’s yard was designed to attract different species of birds.

After 20 years in their home, James and Jane have learned the ins and outs of their vacation-like property, which was built by renowned architect Arthur Cogswell in 1965. A thriving yellow and white Lady Banks rose bush cascades over the side of the house, draping a worktable filled with dried gourds that James turns into works of art. There’s also a charming chicken coop – home to free rangers Holly, Honey and Hilda, who cluck their way around the yard. This is all before you enter the rear of the garden, which hosts flowering perennials along the lake as well as a vegetable garden with kale, cabbage, carrots, radishes, spinach and mint, which the couple’s daughter, Lilli Brown, uses to make chocolate truffles. 

The best part is, on any day of the week, the couple can lounge on the lakeside dock or jump in their hammock, take in the view of Eastwood Lake and relax – even if it’s just for a moment. 

Lady Banks roses and a gourd worm sculpture by James cascade down their home.

A Golfer’s Green

What once was a tangled mess of bamboo, ivy and weeds has turned into “sort of” a hobby for former UNC athletic director Dick Baddour. If he’s not teeing off on the golf course, Dick says with a chuckle, he’s probably trimming trees or weeds in his “facility,” referring to the garden in his Briarcliff backyard. 

“I just love growing things,” he says. “I’ve always had a passion for it. I [found] when I was working as hard as I was, to have a weekend to work in the garden or the yard was just therapy for me.” 

red azaelas
The Baddours planned their Briarcliff garden to have color, like these red azaleas, in all seasons.

Now retired, Dick has shifted focus from overseeing an athletic department into building a half-acre suburban oasis. His wife, Lynda Baddour, an artist and former teacher, adds her own unique touches. The garden features impeccable turf and spring bloomers as well as multidimensional landscaped areas, each one artfully layered with dogwoods, Japanese maples, magnolias and more. Just don’t count on Dick to identify each one.

“I see something and I like it and I put it there, and if it doesn’t do, I move it and it just goes out,” Dick says. “So you can ask me the name of [plants], but it is likely I will not know.”

The “real treat” of this masterpiece, Dick says, is “a studio that we built for Lynda.” It anchors the lower garden, and a swing and rocking chair look out onto the backside of the garden. “We definitely want this to be open and available on the garden tour for people to see,” he says, adding, “This is my shop, and this is my resting place.”

Classical Elegance

Past the shops and restaurants and through the winding residential streets of Meadowmont, there’s a historical house situated in the center of the bustling community off N.C. 54. The 34-room DuBose House sits atop a hill and overlooks a garden that has all the elegance of the Georgian Revival style. David DuBose, a 1921 graduate of UNC, built the rural estate in 1933. His wife, Valinda Hill DuBose, was a charter member of the Chapel Hill Garden Club, founded in 1931, so it’s no surprise that this garden is stunning at every turn. The couple donated the home and the more than 27 surrounding acres to UNC in 1988.

Surrounding the house, there are 11 acres of managed turf, flower beds and towering specimen trees. “We have a lot of camellias that are original to the property prior to the university taking it over,” says Brian Laughinghouse, the manager of the garden. “There are beautiful specimens, some quite unique with history and character. … Mr. DuBose planted many himself. It’s a good mix of new and old.” It’s easy to get lost during a stroll through the brick-walled gardens, which were custom-made for the property. There’s an alluring fragrance of the 90-year-old boxwoods, too, and terraced landscapes with symmetrical patterns. 

“Sometimes I have to step back myself,” Brian says. “Stop, look and say, ‘You know, this is a really beautiful setting that you don’t see that often anymore.’ Especially in this area, there’s not many places with several acres of sweeping fescue lawn leading up to the home.” 

DuBose House
The DuBose House South Garden has a winding path that is lined with trees, azaleas and hellebores among other shrubs and perennials. Photo by Beth Mann

Tickets are $25 online at chapelhillgardenclub.net. Starting on April 1, tickets are available at the NCBG Gift Shop, Piedmont Feed and Garden Center, Southern States in Carrboro, Wild Bird Center of Chapel Hill and Victoria Park Florist. Tickets are $35 the weekend of the event. Admission is free for ages 16 and under with a ticketed adult. Rain or shine, the tour will go on. 

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Hannah Lee

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