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     April 13, 2018      #82-102 PB1
 
Formal and fragrant, gardens welcome home's

BY R. STEPHANIE BRUNO
Special to The Advocate

Andrea Bland confesses to being a serial renovator, someone who just can’t keep her hands off a marvelous old house in distress. First, there was a sidehall house on Camp Street in Touro Bouligny, then a striking Gothic Revival house on Josephine Street in the Lower Garden District. But then 1216 Jackson Ave. caught her eye.

“It was spectacular. Even though the exterior millwork was in poor condition and it had sat vacant for 20 years, it was easy to see how wonderful it could be,” Bland said.

On Sunday, April 22, Bland and her husband, David, will host a fundraiser for the Brain Injury Association of Louisiana, the nonprofit that staged the Secret Gardens tour for several years.

The Blands renovated and expanded this historic Lower Garden District home after it had been vacant for 20 years. Cheryl Gerber

Titled “Queens in the Garden,” the fundraiser features Kitty D’Litter, who will emcee a drag queen fashion show, plus the 610 Stompers, who will present a grant to the brain injury group. Outrageous spring bonnets and pastel bow ties are costume de rigueur.

When the Blands bought the property in 2012, there was no garden to speak of, only grass. After renovating and expanding the house, they turned their attention to the outside area, where they built masonry walls for privacy and installed borders of hollies underplanted with azaleas.

In the front yard, the couple worked with Byron Adams, of Freret Gardens, to sculpt an elegant parterre consisting of finely cropped boxwoods and a tiered fountain. In the side yard, a brick house built in 1974 was removed to make room for an expansive rose garden that infuses the air with the scent of dozens of David Austin roses.

“I could not have done the rose garden without Eddie and Sue Sanchez, the rosarians, who have taught me so much about drainage and soil composition and pH — everything the roses need to thrive,” Bland said.

In the rear yard, the vista is equally engaging. A linear pool and spa occupy a large portion of the space at the right rear property line. A low wall along the back of the pool is adorned with custom-made tiles from Sicily (made by the same company that created the tilework inside in the kitchen above the range).

What had been a tumbledown shed in the right rear corner of the garden was repaired, spruced up and now serves as a cabana for the pool. To its right along the right property line are iron trellises where Bland’s beloved roses are just now beginning to climb.

Luis Colmenares sculpted trellis arches, inviting plantings to climb near the masonry walls. Cheryl Gerber

It is astonishing that the garden is no more than 2 years old, considering the fact that there are tall hollies screening views of neighbors’ yards and abundant mature camellias ringing the side and rear yards.

“When we were working with Byron (Adams), he was able to get large specimens to put in so that we didn’t really need to wait for them to grow or fill in,” said Bland. “Eight-foot-tall camellias aren’t so easy to come by, but he was able to find and put them in. We have at least a half dozen, including Purple Dawn, my favorite.”

A Darcey Bussell rose blooms in the Blands' garden. Cheryl Gerber

It’s a glorious experience to be able to walk among the roses and enjoy their varied hues and fragrances, but even on a rainy or warm day, the Blands can enjoy the garden thanks to a screened porch they built that wraps around the rear and one side of the house.

“I spend part of every day out there,” said Bland. The porch is large enough to shelter a grilling station at one end, facing the pool, and an outdoor fireplace facing the roses. There’s plenty of comfortable furniture to allow for creative loafing (or watching the television installed on the rear corner of the house) plus an artful dining table and chairs.

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Queens in the Garden

WHEN: 3-5 p.m. Sunday, April 22

WHERE: 1216 Jackson Ave.

TICKETS: $45-$55

eventbrite.com 

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