Gardening Matters

Richard and Nancy Fonde have a lovely home in the Sandy Springs area that I still call Dunwoody. But, even better, they have a lovely lot with 1.5 acres of tended woods beside a pretty little stream. It’s not so much a garden as it is a naturalized woodland wonder. They are really nice people, too.

A few months ago I asked readers for suggestions about local gardens I could visit and write about. There are an awful lot of great gardeners in our area, and too often we never get to know about the wonderful things people do to create little plots of garden glory in their backyards. More than one of you insisted that I had to see the Fonde’s backyard. Well those readers were right; it is an idyllic place.

Stairs lead down from the house through terraces of azaleas, ferns and fulsome shade plantings to open onto a perfect croquet lawn. On the far side of the lawn a stream creaks by on a juggernaut past their home. There are small fish in the stream which also serves as the local watering hole for foxes, deer, the occasional coyote and the usual riff raff of wildlife of our area. It is very picturesque.

A path from the far end of the lawn leads you through an extensive dense thicket of bamboo and tall grasses into a wide open flood plain covered in wild greenery. There is an area of sandy build up along one side of the stream here that Richard refers to as “the beach.” It is a perfect place for his children and grandchildren to have played by the pooling water. Paths through the flood plain allow visitors to wander beneath the tree-covered greenery and, perhaps, nurture their contemplations and daydreams on a bench left there for that purpose.

A further intermittent runoff stream enters the back of the flood plain when we get one of those frog-strangler rains that occur occasionally. A trail beside this little freshet leads back up to the house and the comforts of the porch that overlooks the croquet lawn.

Richard insists that he does not tend this awesome space that surrounds his home, but you can tell that someone who enjoys a natural surrounding has taken some time to keep it in trim and to encourage the rich forces of nature to spread out at your feet as you walk the trails of his acreage.

It was a pleasure to visit his home and property. I left feeling that I should do more with the untended wilderness at the back of my property. If I manage to do so I certainly have some excellent ideas from seeing what Richard and Nancy have done with their wonderful place.

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for more than 35 years and has probably killed at least one of each kind of plant he has tried before getting another one to thrive. He is a gardening volunteer at the Dunwoody Nature Center and works closely with members of the DeKalb Master Gardeners group. He can be reached at

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