It’s a living work of art, and one that is continually growing and changing.
Indeed, the garden of Jennifer Newton and Lisa Motta – a photographer and painter respectively – is a project-in-progress at their West Bay home.
“When we bought the house we started with a blank canvas – there were two palm trees in the front, and a hibiscus,” says Jennifer. “There was a lot of grass, but not much else.”
Today, nearly a decade later, the grounds have been transformed into
an island oasis boasting a lush palette of colors, textures, levels and
layers. The eclectic garden is filled with a variety of trees, flowers
and foliage colors, featuring several inviting nooks and crannies in
which to relax and enjoy the outdoors.
“I love my garden, the different textures and colors,” says Lisa. “I always try to pick plants to give a different dimension. Things are constantly changing – we’re always adding and improving.”
Both Jennifer and Lisa love nature and spending time outdoors – the half-acre of land their 2,500-square-foot home sits on, and sprawling backyard deck, were big attractions when they were deciding to buy.
“We could see the potential,” says Jennifer. “It’s completely private, and it’s on a great street in a quiet neighborhood.”
Lisa is an avid gardener, and the prime designer, but the two work hand-in-hand in creating their garden masterpiece.
“She designs as she goes along – it’s not on paper, but in her head,” says Jennifer.
Since focusing on the garden as well as holding down full-time jobs – Lisa is an insurance agent while Jennifer oversees their furniture business The Nook – their artistic passions have taken somewhat of a backseat.
“People ask me, why aren’t you painting?” says Lisa. “I guess my artistic talent has just gone a different direction for a while. I’ll soon go back to the studio.”
Jennifer, who specializes in black and white photography, also hopes to return to the darkroom.
In the meantime, however, their artistic touches can be seen throughout the garden. Striking details include a stone wall with metal gates, along with cut-stone walkways they designed and built themselves.
The gates were designed by Lisa and fashioned from old bicycle parts by a local artisan. The main gate features bicycles surrounded by spokes and sprockets, with a kick-stand serving to hold it open.
Different sprockets and spokes adorn the two smaller gates.
The spacious deck was one of the first areas to see improvements, with two pergolas built to provide shade as well as beautify the area. They also expanded the existing pond, adding a small fountain and waterfall. The pond features colorful water lilies, and is home to four koi fish.
The deck is surrounded by a towering traveller’s palm and decorative potted plants, with several seating areas providing ample room for relaxing and entertaining. Jennifer (a self-taught carpenter who refers to herself as “a jack-of-all-trades but master of none”) built the bar with reclaimed wood from the original decking.
It is Jennifer’s favorite spot. “I spend most of my time out here,” she says. “I have to be outside – I’m not an A/C person. In the evening, you get all the little birds and parrots, lizards and butterflies.”
There are iguanas as well, which are not such welcome visitors in the garden. However, Jen and Lisa share the space with several furry family members – a cat and three dogs – who help keep the critters at bay.
Cup of tea
Lisa also enjoys spending time in the cozy backyard environment though the front patio is where she usually starts and ends her day with a cup of tea. It offers a view of the stone pathways and plants, with a variety of birds flitting in and out.
Various water features – which double as bird baths – concrete benches, sculptures, stone work and other accents can be found throughout the garden beds.
The winding walkways and backyard terrace are crafted from cut limestone, a labor-intensive project that Lisa took on, and her back is still paying the price.
It’s one reason the two are looking to hire a landscaper for the heavier and time-consuming task of regular trimming and maintenance. While both enjoy working in the garden, they want to scale back and spend more time relaxing and appreciating their creation.
“It’s been a labor of love,” says Jennifer. “We love it because we did it ourselves. And for two people who had no experience, we haven’t done too badly.”
There is still an open canvas in one section in the backyard. They haven’t quite yet decided what to create – perhaps a gazebo or greenhouse.
“It is always evolving,” says Jennifer.