Penni Guidry watched from her living room window on a hot summer day as two little girls parked their bicycles in her side yard, had a leisurely snack and rode off.
Guidry was delighted. She enjoys having a neighborhood gathering place.
“I tell everybody to come in, bring lunch, meditate,” she said.
Her garden is loosely laid out with trails and beds and is filled with things other people have thrown out.
“I am the queen of repurposing,” Guidry said. “A lot of what I have in the garden I found on the side of the road. It’s free and found. Just because something has scuffs doesn’t mean you have to throw it away.”
Guidry, who moved three years ago from West Monroe, said she likes anything mismatched.
“It goes along with my asymmetrical soul,” she said.
In West Monroe, she lived a quiet life in the country, but “life put me in Plan B,” she said.
Then she met local attorney David Mooney, who “swooned me down here.”
“I had a picket fence in West Monroe. He built one in front of this house using the same pattern, and the rest is history,” she said.
Guidry said she thought she would miss country living, but she loves her life in the Capital Heights neighborhood of Baton Rouge.
“I think my Plan B was that I was supposed to be around more people,” she said.
Two years ago, Guidry and Mooney purchased the vacant lot next door to their home.
That’s when the Guidry-Mooney yard became an informal neighborhood park.
Guidry was born a collector. “The curse came from my mother,” she said. The vacant lot gave her a place to put some of her things.
She located a 1964 vintage Yellowstone travel trailer on Craigslist. It’s the focus of the back of the lot, the area she calls her “trailer park.”
Next to the trailer is an authentic telephone booth she bought at a scrap yard in Arkansas for $15 as a present for her son on his 13th birthday. He’s 36 now, and the phone still works.
The trailer park also contains a metal table with chairs, where Guidry and Mooney often have meals.
“If the weather permits, we’re outside eating,” Guidry said.
To the left of the trailer park is her quiet garden filled with plants from her late grandmother.
At the center is a fountain Guidry found on the side of the road as she and Mooney were driving by.
“I sat on it and said, ‘Go get the truck,’” she said with a laugh.
Between the quiet garden and the trailer park, Guidry created a “touch of Key West” with a lighted palm tree and a brightly colored flamingo sitting atop a shocking pink table.
Throughout the lot are beds lined with chunks of concrete from broken driveways and construction sites. There are old doors and windows strategically placed as well as found metal chairs and tables.
Guidry loves metal furniture because it reminds her of her grandmother.
At the center of the lot is a dance floor made by Mooney for the April wedding of his son and daughter-in-law, T. Ryan and Shauna Mooney. T. Ryan Mooney is a stuntman in Hollywood.
“She wanted to have her wedding out here,” Guidry said. “It was spectacular. Hollywood happened that night.”
The checked wooden dance floor is just one of David Mooney’s many projects.
“I have all the ideas,” Guidry said. “David can do anything. He’s the master wizard at doing things.”
Guidry found most of the garden items on the side of the road. Others were left by friends, neighbors or perfect strangers including a chandelier that just showed up.
“I can get up in the morning, go in the yard and often find trinkets people have left, like fairies have come in the middle of the night,” Guidry said.
Guidry and Mooney love to entertain. Halloween is their big event. That’s when they convert their adjoining lot to a haunted park with witches, vampires and a fortune teller.
They have hosted a 1950s sock hop and other theme parties. There are no formal invitations. Neighbors know they are invited from information written on old cabinet doors at the front of the yard.
“The sign lets the neighborhood know what is going on,” said Guidry, who admits that she and Mooney are having the time of their lives.
“We got the kids’ teeth straightened. We got the kids educated, and now we’re having fun,” she said. “We travel. We visit with neighbors.”
And, of course, they work on the never-ending project.
The garden is always changing. A discarded train cart holds a dead body at Halloween and flowering plants at Easter.
“The goal is to have the garden slightly unkempt, random and wild,” Guidry said. “Everywhere you look you find something. But it does kind of make some sense.”
Guidry says that her daughter, Allison Guidry, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., calls her a hoarder.
“I’m not a hoarder,” she told her daughter. “I use my things, and I can get in the front door.”