Jim Lewis had lived in condominiums all of his adult life until in
1992, he drove by a brick house for sale and decided to buy it. Located
in an old Atlanta neighborhood, the house and its nearly one acre
property had been neglected for years.
a software salesman, had never gardened. The large, wooded backyard
contained a number of overgrown shrubs. As Jim and some volunteer
co-workers dug and chopped, they discovered a number of features,
including a stone table, barbeque area and a shuffleboard court, all
installed decades ago.
While uncovering rockwork and former
paths, Jim also realized what a great stress reliever gardening was. He
soon started adding plants and other features of his own – Japanese
maples, ferns, shade-loving shrubs like pieris and groundcovers like
After installing a lawn, Jim soon realized that the area
was too shady for grass. He began planting dwarf mondo grass, a dark
green grasslike plant that grew only three inches tall. Once the new
"lawn" grew together, he started seeing other places that might work
for the groundcover and began using it in artistic ways – filling in
spaces in his driveway, making patterns on the ground throughout the
garden and edging the extensive paths that wind uphill from the back of
the house to the barbeque area.
Soon, Jim became known in
gardening circles as "Mondo Man." He spent every spare moment going to
the nursery and bringing trays of the dwarf grass home to plant. He
confesses that he ended up spending a fortune on at least 50,000 plugs
of mondo grass, but he loved the effect it gave him when he looked out
at his backyard.
Jim also added features like a chain that
connects the trees around his garden to provide a medium-sized planting
underneath the tall, mature trees. Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata
'Tangerine Beauty') grows along the chain and festoons the garden in
late April to mid-May with beautiful trumpet-shaped, reddish-orange
flowers. Red accents from an umbrella and cushions on deck chairs also
enliven the mostly green plant palette.
Other features in the
garden include a pavilion with a hammock and a "curtain" of water that
falls from the roof, waterfall, koi pond and an extensive stone patio
overlooking a natural-looking rock pool.
Some plants in Jim's garden: