The engineer vs. the artist

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Susie Tully, left, and Julie Bordelon meet to discuss final plans for the St. Francisville Spring Stroll, a tour of gardens presented by the Feliciana Master Gardeners. Bordelon's home is one of seven on tour at the event, which Tully is chairing.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Susie Tully, left, and Julie Bordelon meet to discuss final plans for the St. Francisville Spring Stroll, a tour of gardens presented by the Feliciana Master Gardeners. Bordelon's home is one of seven on tour at the event, which Tully is chairing.

Home’s garden shows off two sides of nature

ST. FRANCISVILLE — In August 2008, Julie and Mike Bordelon moved to their recently purchased home in a 12-acre lush natural setting. The previous owners, Jan and John Ponson, built the home that in 1999 won an American Institute of Architects Baton Rouge Rose Award for Remson Haley Herpin Architects.

Jan Ponson was a natural gardener who had a great knowledge of plants. She created a natural garden with no real plan. “If she liked a plant, she would stick it in,” said Susie Tully, chairwoman of the St. Francisville Spring Stroll, which is presented by the Feliciana Master Gardeners with assistance from LSUAg Center associate Extension agent André Brock. The Bordelon garden is one of seven on the April 6 tour.

“The plants that were planted were planted to attract birds and butterflies,” Julie Bordelon said. “Jan did a beautiful job. She was a Master Gardener. She was the gardener. It was set for a natural habitat.”

The front actually had somewhat of a plan for four raised brick beds that Jan Ponson filled with roses, 50 to a bed. From the time she moved to the home, Bordelon waged a battle with deer, which were attracted to the roses.

“I tried scarecrow sprinklers. I put soap out. I tried everything,” she said. “If I missed one day, they would come back and get the roses. I would see their hoof prints. I would see their droppings and see my little stub of a rose left.”

It took four years, but in the end, the roses were gone. “Someone had sprayed weed killer and killed quite a few before we moved in, but I take credit for most of it,” Bordelon said.

The Bordelons knew they had to do something about the dead plants, and they wanted to make some changes in the yard.

That’s when Julie Bordelon contacted landscape architect Eduardo Jenkins, who helped her come up with a more specific plan for the property. “We tried to keep it natural, but once we killed everything off, we had to bring in Eduardo,” she said.

Where Jan Ponson had viewed her garden from the eye of an artist, the Bordelons were of a completely different temperament. They are both engineers. She’s a systems engineer. Mike Bordelon is a computer engineer.

“I needed squares,” Julie Bordelon said. “You put one, two or three trees together. Every season new flowers came up, but I need my seven Indian hawthorns in a row.”

The Bordelons added an outdoor fireplace that connects perfectly to a raised gazebo done by the Ponsons. “Eduardo integrated it very well,” Bordelon said.

The Ponsons had a beautiful pool in a natural wooded area to the back of the property. It was quiet, secluded and not visible from the patio or house. “My husband replaced two pumps and two motors, and we kept finding dead animals. It was disturbing,” Julie Bordelon said. “I’d go down there with my little kids, and we’d be attacked by bugs. There would be snakes.”

Finally Mike Bordelon decided to remove some of the trees and build a new pool closer to the house. They used the dirt from the new pool to fill the old pool. The project is ongoing under the direction of Keith Russell of the Russell Pool Co.

Jenkins is in the process of planting 10-foot-tall crape myrtles in the front beds. These should be ready for the Spring Stroll.

“Eduardo said that the house is so large that it needs some large features,” Bordelon said.

The back beds and courtyard have been spiffed up, but some of the original planting is preserved along with the natural setting surrounding the landscaped area. It will be a treat to see both worlds — the artist and the engineer — at the Spring Stroll.

The Bordelons moved to the St. Francisville area from Arizona in 2008. Mike Bordelon is originally from Marksville. The couple married in 2007. “He came to a family reunion and moved here,” Julie Bordelon said. He retired once but now commutes to Detroit, where he works for Chrysler.

“His retirement didn’t last long,” she said.

Julie Bordelon grew up in Scottsdale, Ariz. “I had never gardened in Arizona,” she said. “I feel like I am in a playground here. I spend all day outside. There’s not enough water there to keep plants alive. They just all died. I would rake my dirt and plant cactus. But we came here where you just drop a seed and it grows. It’s paradise.”