You might call Martha Upton's garden therapeutic.
After working with 30 to 50 patients a day as a cardiac rehab nurse at the Baton Rouge General Medical Center, Upton can't wait to come home to her calm and peaceful space.
"I spend as much time in the garden as possible," she said. "I weed. I pull plants up. It's relaxing."
Upton developed the garden herself after she and her attorney husband, Mark, moved two blocks from one Garden District home to their present home 14 years ago. There was nothing in the backyard but grass and a shed for the washer and dryer.
While they worked on the house, they consulted a landscape architect who killed all of the grass and left them with a muddy backyard.
Even though the Uptons had decided to wait on the yard until they finished the house, Upton couldn't bear it. She planned exactly what she wanted and hired someone to put in their large deck and a brick and concrete patio/parking pad.
"I told them where to leave space so I could plant," she said. "In some places, I had to carve out concrete for plants."
Inside their home, the Uptons opened up the living room and kitchen to create one large room that runs the entire width of their home from a red door at the front to a red door at the back that opens to the deck. Painted Montgomery tan, the deck blends seamlessly with the sage green house.
The free flow from the front to the back of the house makes the deck a part of the living space and makes the home ideal for entertaining. Strings of clear lights twinkle above the deck and patio, where everyone can sit and watch movies or sports events on a screen that pulls down from the garage.
Flower beds line both sides of the patio, and in the middle is a free-flowing bed centered with a tiered fountain.
Upton knows every plant.
The yard has a lot of perennials surrounded by annuals, some added each season and others that just appear at different times of the year, like masses of pink and white amaryllis that bloom each spring. A large evergreen wisteria fills the area on the east side of the house and cascades over Creole hibiscus, Mexican petunias, walking iris, begonias and variegated ginger.
On the opposite side of the house, Upton is developing her "white garden" with gardenias, white caladiums, white violas and white azaleas. Behind this area, stepping stones lead to a potting area and a place for some of Upton's "sickly plants" or rescue plants she has salvaged from sale areas of the many plant nurseries she frequents.
"I believe in benign neglect," she said.
Upton likes to combine unusual plants, like a large plumeria with tiny yellow flowers with old-fashioned heirloom varieties like a small Beauregard Town rose and a pink oleander. Although she mainly plants flowers, she does have herbs peeking out of every bed in the garden and in pots on the deck.
"There's no such thing as having too much parsley or too much basil," she said.
She also has three blackberry plants that last year yielded three pints of fruit.
Upton's garden extends beyond her yard into both sides of the alley behind her house. One of the prettiest spots is the area between the alley and the fence of her back neighbors, Erin and Jeremy Brown.
"This is the view directly from my kitchen, and I want that to be pretty," Upton said.
The Upton garden is a welcoming place for friends and animals.
"The birds — blue jays, sparrows, doves — come here to eat and splash in the fountain," she said.