San Marco garden tour wows visitors

San Marco garden tour wows visitors
Connie Triano and Debbie Safford in the Hardington Garden

Flowering plant lovers had a treat when The Garden Conservancy, in partnership with the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, sponsored tours of the lush landscaping at four San Marco area riverfront homes March 30. Included in the tour was cultivated foliage outside of the neighboring Thomas and McCalla homes in Granada and the Hardington and Slay homes on River Road in San Marco.

Among the many local visitors from Jacksonville’s historic neighborhoods who toured the four locations were Andy and Kay Shaw of Denver, Colo., who have visited 25 Garden Conservancy sites throughout the United States. “We plan our vacations around these tours,” said Kay, adding that San Marco’s Gardens and the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens did not disappoint.

Jezarena Lagasca and Miriam King in the Thomas Garden
Jezarena Lagasca and Miriam King in the Thomas Garden

When the Thomas family moved into their 1970s ranch home they wanted to improve on the “good plants” in the yard, so they asked Sunscapes Landscape Designs to help by creating garden areas with different personalities. Included in their vision in the frontyard is a classic fountain, the focal point from the front door, a small rose garden containing a Lutyens bench and a secret garden behind an arch. In the backyard the St. Johns River takes precedence, especially when viewed from a spacious covered porch, large swimming pool and an arbor alongside the pool, which was designed by Richard Skinner & Associates. The garden areas are varied with a classic parterre garden by the porch and a summer flower garden beyond. “Belinda’s Dream” roses flank the arbor, with a small more formal garden to view at the opposite end of the pool.

Jake Ingram with Jean Pyle and Charlie Lembcke `in the McCalla Garden
Jake Ingram with Jean Pyle and Charlie Lembcke `in the McCalla Garden

One Cummer Garden volunteer described the exquisite foliage at Gary McCalla’s home as simply “jaw dropping.” Designed jointly by McCalla and his full-time landscaper Jason Heape, the French country-style estate has gardens infused with casual elegance. Rock walls, stone baths, koi ponds, fountains, river-front terraces, a jacuzzi spa and flowering plants including holly trees, magnolias, azaleas, bougainvillea, roses and hydrangea make the luscious surroundings something to behold.

Katy Kearson, Mary Ann Clark and Celina Rohman in the Slay Garden
Katy Kearson, Mary Ann Clark and Celina Rohman in the Slay Garden

The Slay Garden, positioned around a new English Tudor home designed by architect Scott Leuthold, is located on River Road alongside both the San Marco Canal and the St. Johns River. Designed by Sunscapes Landscape Designs, it includes an infinity pool, putting green, a live oak canopy, bright flowers in large pots and a dock extending out into the river. In the entry garden in front of the house is a more formal boxwood period garden that includes azaleas, camellias, sasanquas, agapanthus, plumbago and thryallis.

Mark McCombs and Mattie Ledew in the Hardington Garden
Mark McCombs and Mattie Ledew in the Hardington Garden

The Hardington Garden, also on River Road, includes a total of six connecting spaces within the grounds – front-facing gardens with a natural double hedge green barrier in lieu of a wall and gates; a south-facing music terrace and reflective shade garden, a north-facing guest patio and shade area; a rear-facing English butterfly garden terrace, patio pool, and a Zoysia grass soccer field. Connecticut-based landscape architect Rick Worcester of Worcester + Worcester Landscape Architects, collaborated with the family in its design. Plantings included in the garden are Sago palms, American maples, Japanese maples, Drakes Chinese elms, multi-stem loquat trees, magnolias, holly trees, Camellia Sasanqua, ferns, azaleas, and agapanthus.  

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