For years, Suzanne and Gene Booth worked on their backyard in Old Goodwood subdivision, creating a lush garden under the shade of an ancient oak tree.
It only took a few minutes for all of that to change.
The giant oak split in half and came crashing down hitting the house and covering the garden.
Not only did the Booths have a massive cleanup on their hands, they had to completely rethink their once shaded yard.
Together, they developed a plan.
"It was a design by argument," said a smiling Gene Booth, a retired attorney and admitted frustrated architect.
Some of the backyard plants were transplanted to the front yard, which is still shaded by a large oak. Others were salvaged and returned to the now-sunny garden. Giant azaleas were relocated from the front yard to a corner bed in the backyard. And the couple brought in new varieties of plants, especially ferns, which thrive in the new garden.
Through trial and error, Suzanne Booth learned which plants bloom in the shade and which in the sun. She has had plenty of surprises.
"Everything that was doing well in the shade, once it got in the sun, it went bonkers," she said.
Throughout the yard, the Booths made new flower beds, laying down a dozen sheets of newspaper and topping them with mulch, leaves or pine straw.
"Within six months, you have a wonderful, weed-free bed with great soil complete with earthworms," said Suzanne Booth of the method.
The backyard is now framed with beds filled with evergreen plants so it looks good, even in winter. Five Natchez crepe myrtles and several Japanese magnolias add height to the space, which is interspersed with flowering plants.
"I want something blooming all the time, a progression of flowers," Suzanne Booth said.
Many of her most cherished plants are from cuttings or seedlings given to her by the late Lillie Edwards, a well-known local gardener who was generous with her gardening knowledge and plants from her own garden. Suzanne Booth said she learned from Edwards many gardening tips, including how to root plants from cuttings.
Using carpentry skills he learned growing up, Gene Booth built a garden house, a major focal point in the yard. A walkway of pavers and crushed stone leads to another of his projects, a pergola with a screened pitched roof.
Over the years, the Booths doubled the size of their house to make room for their family of six sons. They had added a playroom above their free-standing garage and a family room to the back of the house, with a patio off of it. As part of the yard reinvention, they tied the additions together by connecting the garage to the house, converting the playroom to the master bedroom and covering the patio with a vaulted ceiling.
With its spectacular view of the backyard, the patio is now the hub of the garden.
Between the patio and the garden house are four parterre gardens lined with English boxwood hedges. A wooden fence to the left of the garden house creates a border around an annual garden now filled with rudbeckia and other blooming plants.
Along the fence is a stand of sweetheart roses that originated at the Zachary home of Suzanne Booth's grandparents. Her aunt took cuttings from those roses and planted them at her home in Georgia. Suzanne Booth then took cuttings from the Georgia garden and brought them home to Old Goodwood.
Throughout the garden are decorative rocks, many brought by the Booths and friends from their travels from all over the United States.