This week’s Kool Kat isn’t a person but a garden which happens to belong to a Retro home, one of those 1920s neo-Tudor-revival manors on Fairview Road where we can only imagine the Gatsby-style Charleston parties that once went on. Vintage Atlanta got a massive break in the early 1990s when a lawsuit finally took away the threat of Freedom Parkway being extended through what’s now Freedom Park. It was too late to save all of the historic homes that were demolished in the 1960s and ‘70s due to the specter of the “Stone Mountain Freeway,” but the threat of overlooking a highway lowered home prices in the parts of Druid Hills next door to it enough to make a deal for homeowners Christine Cozzens, an English professor at Agnes Scott College, and Ron Calabrese, a biology professor at Emory University. A potential view of asphalt vanquished, they planted a garden so beautiful that it’s a work of art, one of several that complement historic homes in Druid Hills, Morningside and Buckhead on The Artful Garden Tour, Sat. May 14 from 10 AM to 5 PM, which benefits the High Museum of Art.
Druid Hills itself could be called a garden neighborhood, designed to around curving interconnecting parks by pioneering landscape architect Frederik Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York and the Chicago’s World Fair. Olmsted embraced living in nature, and so does this house. Cozzens grew up in a neo-Tudor revival house and loved the fact that former owners had never changed the floor plan, as has happened to many Druid Hills homes, but the one addition the couple did make was a conservatory. “The idea was that we needed some more living space but we wanted to be able to be outdoors year-round,” she says. The garden, designed by well-known Atlanta landscape architect Mary Palmer Dargan, of Dargan Landscape Architects, literally encircles the house so big windows in the front and back also provide breathtaking views.
When Cozzens and Calabrese moved in with her then-small three children, the only blooms endured for a few weeks in the spring, but now the house is surrounded by an eclectic variety of shrubs, native plants and perennials, allowing for year-round color without a lot of work to maintain the loveliness. The variety reminds Cozzens of Merrion Square and other places in Dublin which the Irish literature expert has visited while leading student trips. “It wouldn’t be miles of privet or boxwood,” she says. “It would be different leaf textures, different colors, different everything right next to each other—an incredible tapestry of leaves.”
Winding paths lead to other parts of the garden including a vegetable planting area with five beds, the Crepe Myrtle Parking Nook which makes for a breathtaking view from the kitchen window, and Emma’s Garden, named after the family’s daughter, which still contains the small unicorn statue the now-20-year-old loved at age 9. The house and garden took a tragic hit in 2009 when a giant tree fell, and the drought gave an extra hit, but the possibility to participate in this year’s Artful Garden Tour provided inspiration to revive the garden after that difficult time. It’s also been featured in the HGTV series GROUND BREAKERS.
Tickets for The Artful Garden Tour are available here.