An inviting layout and thoughtful plantings bring beauty and wildlife to a serene garden north of Raleigh.
by Lori D.R. Wiggins | photography by Kate Medley
Lorrie Hareza and Brent Edwards have been on a journey to transform the backyard of their Youngsville home into a place of peaceful refuge, joy and connectivity; a place where nature answers the invitation to unveil the life she cradles. The couple has been working on their backyard since March of 2019, shortly after they moved into the home. To plan their garden, the couple enlisted Mary Pat Peters of CenterPeace Garden Design, then used landscape architect Mike Bruton of Norwood Road Garden Center to help bring it to fruition. The garden on the quarter acre lot extends about 30 feet from the back door and is split by a large patio, with a southern exposure and a woodline they plan to maintain without fencing.
But it all starts with a cobblestone path that Hareza calls “the beginning of the journey.” She adds, “I don’t think we ever arrive; I think our lives are a continual journey.” For Edwards, the journey began with the word garden. “I’m not a gardener,” says Edwards. “I had not ever grown vegetables in my life and I had no idea about plants, but now I can probably identify 70 percent of what’s out there. Lorrie’s turned me into a gardener!”
Peters listened and planned accordingly. “I didn’t just want it to be a garden that bloomed and then was not very interesting for the rest of the year,” she says. “If a garden is interesting and dynamic, then the person that is in the garden tends to pay attention to what’s there and the changes that take place on a daily basis, through seasons, and over the years, and it encourages a mindful way of living and being.” That meant choosing an array of plants that offer something for every season: plants with autumn foliage; shrubs and trees with branching patterns that show beauty when the leaves fall in the winter; and evergreen shrubs that provide structure any time of year. Many of the plantings offer beauty year-round, like Kousa dogwood, which offers spring flowers, summer berries (a bird favorite), vibrant fall color and impressive bark for winter enjoyment. Fragrant gardenia blooms in the summer, and camellia brings winter blossoms. For spring, there’s bigleaf and oakleaf hydrangeas, and flowering quince.
The garden is a haven with benefits beyond the aesthetic. “The garden is definitely healing,” Hareza said. “It brings Brent and me together for a purpose. We entertain in our yard and invite people to walk through the garden.” Many comment not only about its beauty, Hareza said, but also about the calmness it brings them.
And they have company. Every day.
Initially, “that startled us,” Hareza quips, referring to the dozens of large dragonflies darting around her garden, among other critters. But as Hareza researched their wild guests, she found they had a purpose: having creatures fly over your house, she learned, signals transformation— change is in the air. Bumblebees reflect the sun, drawing energy and personal power; hummingbirds remind us of the sweetness in life; monarch butterflies symbolize spirituality and rebirth. A foursome of hummingbirds “dive, wrestle and toss in the air to entertain us all day,” Hareza says. “They give us quite a show.”
And then there’s Gertie: she’s a yellow garden spider who brings luck to the garden— and a sense of home.
Hareza says she embraces nature’s messages “as we direct power and energy back into the plants.” She notes how the couple’s focus on gardening coincided with the worldwide pandemic. “It has brought us hope,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to rethink everything that is going on in the world. I believe all these creatures came to heal what’s wrong in the world.”
Peters also believes it’s important to build a garden that’s friendly to wildlife. “You’re doing something healthy for the natural environment by providing food sources and homes for these animals,” Peters says. “You’re also making a place where mindfulness means being very much in the presence of nature.” And it’s just the tranquility Hareza and Edwards imagined.