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a garden for all seasons

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And while there's nothing particularly exotic about the mix of plants— mostly Richmond standbys like Virginia creeper, Carolina jasmine, liriope, crape myrtle and maple— Lunsford's secret seems to be that he hasn't included too much of any one thing. Each plant, or grouping, looks distinctive.

Take the lone, plump boxwood bush. When Lunsford bought the place eight years ago the backyard landscaping scheme consisted of boxwood planted in rows. He removed all but one bush: "It was the un-Southern thing to do," he says sheepishly, as if he'd committed a sacrilege, "but I didn't want anything formal. I wanted a casual garden."

Of course, for a garden to look casual and not haphazard, takes careful thought.

The 25- by 60-foot yard is divided almost equally into three parts.

The section closest to the house consists of a brick patio paved in a basket-weave pattern. This terrace is reached by descending a steep staircase from a narrow porch that runs across the back of the house. Lunsford has placed on the patio a variety of large terra-cotta pots that brim with seasonal flora.

A slate pathway slices across the center section of the yard on a curvy diagonal. The walkway is flanked by two irregularly shaped ponds that are fed by small waterfalls. Shade trees provide a dense canopy over this part of the yard. Two white crape myrtles and a corkscrew maple tree (with fascinating, squiggly leaves) add visual energy.

The path leads to a latticed pergola covered in wisteria and Carolina jasmine, which Lunsford says makes the yard feel like a room. The pergola also provides a transitional opening to the back section, a sliver of lawn that doubles as the service yard.

Across the rear, a wooden privacy fence, softened by a fast-growing photinia hedge, provides a backdrop.

The yard is relatively easy to maintain. This is a good thing since Lunsford spends much of his time attending to other people's floral needs. He is manager of Grandiflora, a flower shop affiliated with the Jefferson Hotel, just five blocks from his home.

But as green and soothing as his yard can be on a sultry, Indian-summer day or evening, Lunsford says it is equally satisfying during cooler months: "The yard is particularly pretty in the winter with its green backdrop. It is oriented to be viewed from indoors and from the upper floors."

In winter, when leaves have dropped from the trees, the yard takes on a more sculptural quality. There is a muscularity to the trunks of the crape myrtle. The Algerian ivy, variegated in dark green and white, maintains its color and form. And when the green corkscrew maple leaves turn brown, and dangle like earrings from the branches, they look, well, like corkscrews. HS

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