Couple’s garden is a refuge for friends, too
“We’ve invited friends recuperating from surgery to spend time in the garden when we aren’t here.” Evelyn nowacki
Once you’ve seen the other side of the wall of Evelyn and Paul Nowacki’s garden, you’ll never pass another line of row houses without wanting to peer through the garden gate.
The couple moved to Windermere Oaks Court from Pollard Estates 10 years ago.
Paul Nowacki, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s CFO, was putting in long hours. Evelyn, a real estate agent, and Paul enjoyed working in their big yard in Pollard Estates but not as much as they once did.
Using a real estate term, they wanted a smaller place they could “lock and leave” to travel and play more golf.
Now, when the Nowackis lock and leave their 2,200-square-foot garden home it doesn’t stay empty long.
“We’ve invited friends recuperating from surgery to spend time in the garden when we aren’t here,” Evelyn said. “Neighbors, too.”
Visitors may repay the Nowackis’ kindness with plants or garden sculptures, but they aren’t required to water.
“This is low maintenance,” Evelyn said. “I use a small, battery-powered blower, a rake in the winter, and the garden is on a sprinkler system.”
Evelyn is 5 feet 1 ½ inches tall. “And I claim that half inch,” she said. Paul is 6 feet 4 inches, 260 pounds.
“That’s because I had children,” he said.
Paul wanted some guarantees before he’d agree to move: tall ceilings and light from lots of windows and doors. “And to feel I could go from inside to the outside on nice days and be comfortable, for the outside to feel like the inside.”
Though Paul is a much bigger target than his wife, mosquitoes don’t seem to find him in the courtyard.
“I sleep outside (on a chaise lounge the size of a speed boat) on cool evenings,” he said.
“My sore back wakes me up before the mosquitoes.”
The Nowackis, who are in their early 60s, and landscape contractor John Braud, 46, have packed a lot of plants into a tiny front yard and a small, L-shaped courtyard without making the spaces seem jammed.
“We brought plants with us from other houses,” Paul said, “but we give John full rein.”
In August 1990, Braud, then in computer sales, watched as a landscaping crew unloaded gear at a job.
“They looked like they were having more fun than I was,” Braud said.
Braud left computers to start “The Other Side Landscapes” (where the grass is always greener) to click on yard and garden work full time.
“Evelyn’s street is my lucky street,” he said.
“I’ve gotten ‘Yard of the Month’ three times. One of the ladies is a judge now, so I can’t do her yard anymore.”
Braud guesses he redid half the Nowackis’ yard and garden after the couple had been living there awhile.
“I changed the annuals in front a few weeks ago,” he said.
Caladiums, Nirvana vincas, pentas and zinnias make a welcoming front behind tall crape myrtles pruned to let light and admiring looks through.
Things get more personal inside the garden walls where Evelyn and Paul put in the brick patio.
“We used St. Louis brick,” Evelyn said. “Paul spent some time in St. Louis.”
Step through the back, kitchen door onto paving stones under chaise lounges and a round, wrought-iron table and chairs where the couple has morning coffee and Paul reads the newspaper.
“In the evening, he listens to the water fountain and looks over the fence at the trees and sky,” Evelyn said. “I think this feels like a protected corner to him.”
The courtyard’s plant pallet includes: Caladiums that wintered over, mini mondo grass in the walkway, iron plants, agapanthus, sasanqua, sweet potato vine, rosemary, vinca, azaleas, Indian hawthorne, Knockout Roses, New Guinea impatiens, variegated phlox, Japanese maple, Shi-Shi camellia, begonia, ficus, fig ivy,
nuttall oak, dracena, a holly tree and maiden grass.
“This is a transition garden,” Evelyn said.
The courtyard includes flagstones from the garden of a deceased nephew, and sculptures and a Japanese maple from a woman who lived with the Nowackis for six months after Hurricane Katrina.