When the children moved out, Arlette Lacaze moved in the plants to her Kenilworth garden

Even if left alone, land will change in roughly 40 years. No one can accuse Arlette Lacaze of leaving her Kenilworth lot to its own devices.

From the large oaks in the front yard that were planted in 1976 as twigs from her father’s property in Pointe Coupee Parish to the box elder, peanut butter tree and Mickey Mouse elephant ear in her backyard, there is hardly a square foot of the outdoor property that hasn’t been planted and replanted.

“This is my therapy,” Lacaze said. “This is where I sit with the fan going.”

You’ll have to take her word for it that Lacaze sits in her backyard. From the looks of it, she’s spent a lot more time digging, planting, pruning, weeding and laying down walkways.

It wasn’t always this way.

When her children were young, the backyard gave them room to play in a pre-digital era when that was what kids did. There was lots of grass, with a swing and a concrete picnic table with an umbrella, and some trees.

“Of course, they’re all grown, and I just said I might as well make it my own,” she said.

Some of that involved reconnecting with her family.

Cashmere bouquet was added because it was a plant her mother had. Like the oaks, crape myrtles are from father’s property, and the box elder is from her husband Jay’s grandfather in Natchitoches. Even some of the old bricks she found to create the patio floor have “Campbell” on them, which happens to be her mother’s maiden name.

“My mother always had a pretty yard. I grew up at 2111 Hood, right in front of Southdowns School, and she always had her border grass and her camellias and everything,” Lacaze said. “Of course, I wasn’t terribly interested in it at the time.”

The interest grew, and a greenhouse went up about 20 years ago. Nine years ago, after she retired from teaching first grade, the pace quickened.

Now, all sorts of decorative plants greet visitors: pineapple guava, alligator plant, pineapple lilies, yellow Carolina jasmine, white star jasmine, caladiums, ligularia, night-blooming cirrus, touch-me-nots, Texas star hibiscus and passion vine, to name a few. There are more than 100 stepping stones that wind through the nooks and crannies of the garden.

“When I get bored, I just find something else to stick in a corner, and even if it’s wet in the yard I can get around with dry feet,” she said.

The way the garden meanders around the contours of the house, greenhouse and patio, and the varying size of the plants make it impossible to stand in one spot and see it all, encouraging the visitor to keep moving and discovering what was previously out of sight.

“I’ll find myself doing that, because I’ve forgotten something is growing around the corner,” she said.

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