Creating an Eye Magnet



Creating an Eye Magnet
an Eye
Old shed makes fine focal point at historic home
By Jon Carloftis d I
n May 2012 when we bought Botherum,
a hidden gem of a home built in 1851 on
an acre smack dab in the middle of Lexington, the main question was “where do
we start?”
The property had not been touched for
15 years or so, and raccoons had nested in
the attic and basement, terrorizing the
whole neighborhood at night. The property was originally a 36-acre working farm
purchased in the 1820s by a wealthy lawyer,
Madison Conyers Johnson, and his wife,
Sally Anne Clay. When Madison died in
1886 the heirs sold the farm, which was then
divided up into lots for beautiful Victorian
homes that now surround us. Except for
where once stood greenhouses and gardens
for the farm, now are condominiums and
parking lots. Luckily, a six-foot stone wall
surrounds part of the property and we
rebuilt the wooden privacy fence around
the rest of it to keep in our Labradors.
However, the new fencing in the back
sure didn’t hide the new buildings and
we needed some good ideas to remedy the
Hiding Some Views While
Creating a Focal Point
When you drive through the gates
towards the house, unfortunately, the first
thing you see are the vinyl-sided condos.
Before even cleaning up the inside or fixing
the leaky roof, we decided to plant Bracken’s Beauty Southern Magnolias to cover
the views, along with quick-growing river
34 | june & july 2015
birches that would serve to hide the neighbors until the evergreen magnolias took the
stage. Once that happened, the birches
would be cut down to use in a cabin on the
lake for a forest effect in a great room. We
try to waste nothing.
But it still didn’t hide the bad views.
Inside an old walled garden sat an original
shed … well, not exactly “sat”—it was leaning and rotting from below. Why not put
this in front of the condos with the trees
behind it and create a focal point? And
why not make this the centerpiece of the
vegetable garden, much like the blacksmith
shop at my family’s home on the Rockcastle
River? Yes, we suddenly had a plan. 1.
Put a garden structure
in front of a bad view
to create a focal point.
By adding a foundation of stone found
in a pile on the property, we raised the
little building up off the ground, making
it even more pronounced. A 120-foot crane
lifted it from its location (not original) and
before it was placed on the foundation, the
men bought four 20-pound bags of ice and
placed them beneath the corners. Then,
the building was lowered, straps taken off,
crane taken away and the rest of the day
was spent waiting for the ice to melt and
gently settle the structure into place. Then
and there, we realized that the tradespeople are going to survive if there is ever a
catastrophe. This was BRILLIANT!
Create a garden space
using recycled fencing.
We found a whole stack of iron fencing
in the basement and that amount told us
how big our garden was going to be. 3.
Add raised beds to “make”
your own perfect soil.
Cedar posts were cut for six squares
and we found the best soil to fill them but
also added a ¼ coarse sand for drainage,
to deter slugs and mimic the soil where we
think some of the best tomatoes come from:
the banks of the Delaware River near our
Bucks County farmhouse. They grow in
the sandiest soil from river flooding and are
delicious, as is the corn from there.
edible louisville® & the bluegrass
Photo by Steve Makela
Small spaces need height
for more growing area.
Planting thornless raspberries attached
up the walls of the building, vining plants
such as peas and beans on the fencing, and
tall growing cherry tomatoes on wooden
obelisks or tobacco sticks, we achieved a good
amount of space for growing vegetables.
Herbs can take hot
and dry conditions
so put them in pots.
Containers are where we added all the
style using plain, rolled-rim terra-cotta
pots, found metal buckets and this year we
chose a Tom Pot from Louisville Stoneware. This look is the best yet of the past
edible louisville® & the bluegrass
seasons so we think we’ve found the right
combination. 6.
Use the structure for all
your garden storage.
Attaching tools to the walls, having
ready-made soil mix in metal garbage cans,
stacking pots in neat rows and putting fun
collectables for decorations gives us all the
enjoyment and usefulness that is needed for
a tiny but prolific edible garden.
One of the most important lessons to
be learned from this small garden space is
how much pleasure it gives as the first thing
you see when driving into the property.
Yes, the condos are still visible, but not for
long. People are drawn to beautiful gardens
and they are attracted to food, especially
young children. Why not combine them in
a garden that isn’t relegated to the back but
right up front to greet you and your friends
coming to visit?
Jon Carloftis, a Kentucky native, is an
award-winning garden designer, garden
writer, television guest, author and lecturer.
His career in gardening began in 1988 in
New York City, where he became one of
America’s pioneers and leading authorities
in rooftop/small space gardening. Jon has
written a wide variety of garden books:
First a Garden (2005), Beyond the
Windowsill (2007) and Beautiful Gardens
of Kentucky (2010).
june & july 2015 | 35
36 | june & july 2015
edible louisville® & the bluegrass
In addition to the garden shed project, Jon Carloftis has groomed
the grounds of Botherum into a quiet oasis, featuring a koi pond,
espalier fruit trees, a mill wheel, along with many other elements
incorporated into the gardens.
Life + Style
Event Series
Photos by Chris Valentine
edible louisville® & the bluegrass
june & july 2015 | 37

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