For Janis and Collin Andrews, the view from the sunroom they added four years ago was just as important as the room itself.
"I wanted something pretty to look at," said Janis Andrews, who retired three years ago from a career in teaching that included many years at Trinity Episcopal Day School. Collin Andrews teaches and coaches in Ascension Parish.
The couple purchased their home in a small neighborhood off College Drive when they moved to Baton Rouge from Norwood in 2002. With the exception of a few old azaleas, some bridal wreath, a stand of nandina, two oaks and a pecan tree, the yard was "just blank," Janis Andrews said.
She gave lots of "instructions" to landscape designer Hampton Landry, who created the plan for the backyard.
"I didn't want a formal thing, but I wanted lots of stuff blooming," she said. "I wanted a swing for my husband and me, something to bring the grandkids here and a little covered area for my husband to barbecue."
Landry solved those three needs with three separate pergolas, built with weathered pine by Dax Bratton. One pergola covers a small barbecue area. The second is for an old-fashioned swing for two, and the third gives grandchildren, George Dalmau, 7, and sister Audrey, 5, a place to swing.
The one "don't" on her list: an outdoor television.
"I want to hear the outdoor sounds," she said. "I want to hear the birds."
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The yard features a brick patio and four planted areas with an open space at the center for the grandchildren to play. Closest to the patio is a water feature with a sugar kettle serviced by an antique hand pump from Collin Andrews' family farm near New Orleans. Toward the center of the yard is what the couple calls their pecan tree island surrounded with greenery and blooming plants. At the back is their "curvy bed."
Lemmie Dickerson, the landscape contractor who did the actual planting, used ginger, umbrella plant, hydrangeas, sasanquas, blue daze, agapanthus and lots of annuals to bring color to the yard.
"Lemmie and I tweaked what Hampton Landry had done," Janis Andrews said. "I looked through magazines. That helped me get started."
When the couple bought their home, there was a koi pond at the side of the original patio, but when they added the sunroom with assistance from family friend Randy Ellis, they tore up the old patio and filled in the pond to create a brick bench, where Janis Andrews displays blooming potted plants.
"I can change or add seasonal things," she said.
The new brick patio is a seamless extension of the carport, which the couple uses when they have a large crowd over. At the back of the carport is an old bathroom that had been used for storage. When Janis Andrews was teaching third grade, she did a unit on lighthouses every year, and over many years had acquired quite a collection of lighthouse photos and miniature lighthouses. When they redid the patio, they also redid the bathroom in a sea green color and used lighthouse memorabilia to decorate.
Even though Janis Andrews relies on Jeremy Spikes, of Me-Moes, for major maintenance in her yard, she does a lot of the work herself.
"I love planting, watering, pulling up weeds, picking up leaves," she said. "The backyard is my sanctuary."
And, while you can take the teacher out of the classroom, you can't take teaching out of the teacher. For Janis Andrews, her garden is great place to teach her grandchildren. This summer, they planted tomatoes and squash to learn how vegetables grow.
"The children love it, too," she said. "They fight over who gets to use the hose."