May 2015 Fellows Tour Martha Karsh’s Tower Grove Garden:
When Martha and I first explored the property, the grounds epitomized a garden overgrown. We hiked through a koelreuteria forest, tangles of vines and lava rock ruins. No views, no flat area but there was character to the lay of the land that hinted at its potential. In the midst of this a stand of beautiful mature sycamores stood out, presiding over the entry drive – so that is where we started.
The main lawn level was built first to extend the house with a wide back terrace, a lawn raised to connect with city views and dropped pool area for privacy. Wherever we created an open level area or a hillside path, large specimen trees were brought in. We gave seasonal interest with multi-trunked sycamores, varied evergreen, and deciduous oaks that offered autumn color. Magnolias, Arbutus, and Lagerstroemia brought white blossom and rich cinnamon bark.
Once we had cohesion in the flow of the property, the walk to the tennis court needed to be a garden experience. Brick clad retaining walls became opportunities for walled garden paths and staircases with fountains. Pocket gardens developed around garden antiquities and created microclimates for plant collections.
As the garden took shape the antiquities became a collection, the plantings became collections, and we deepened our knowledge of the stone, trees, and plants that we loved.
When the final phase of building the guest house took place, the garden was well on its way to being lush and established. Thus, the property evolved with considerable time, thought, and collaboration over many years and those dignified sycamores now have some company.