When Susan Gillibrand bought her French Quarter Creole cottage in 2011, she didn’t have the time or energy to turn her attention to the courtyard.
“The house needed so much that it was what we were occupied with for a long time,” Gillibrand said, referring to herself and her partner, David Burridge. “Once we got the house in shape, it was time to redo the courtyard.”
The lush outdoor space in the 1200 block of Burgundy Street will welcome guests Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. during the annual Friends of the Cabildo spring home and courtyard tour. There are four additional stops on the self-guided venture, which includes admission to several houses. Tickets are $25 and available on the Friends of the Cabildo website as well as at tour headquarters (1850 House Museum, 520 St. Ann St.) the day of the tour.
Gillibrand’s intimate courtyard (about 35 feet wide and 12 feet deep) brings her pleasure every day, no matter the weather.
“When the weather is good, it becomes an outdoor room,” she said. “And when it isn't, we can still enjoy it by looking outside through the bank of French doors all along the back of the house.”
Surrounded on three sides by brick walls and on the fourth by the house, the courtyard features a glorious French fountain that Gillibrand acquired from Patrick Dunne at the now-closed shop Lucullus, as well as three long in-ground beds filled with plants.
“I took out everything that was there originally and put in what I like. I have a wonderful Meyer lemon that I espaliered on a trellis, a fig and a night-blooming cereus,” she said.
The night-blooming cereus came from a small cutting of a prized beauty that once grew in the courtyard at the Spanish stables on Governor Nicholls Street.
“The story was that every time the plant would bloom — which wasn’t often and happened at midnight — there would be a party,” Gillibrand said.
This time of year, however, the showiest and most fragrant plans in the courtyard are Gillibrand’s gardenias, a plant whose scent is heightened in the evening. Scientists say the heightened evening fragrance is an evolutionary development aimed at attracting nighttime pollinators. The brilliant white blossoms stand out against the dark green, shiny leaves to make them more visible at night.
When the time came for him to depart the mortal realm, Patrick Dunne thought he knew exactly how he would leave.
Although many plants are in the ground, such as the deep burgundy caladiums that appear in the warm months, others, such as impatiens and begonias, are in pots. A green lattice screen against the surrounding walls provides an easy place to hang a pot brimming with flowers.
In one corner of the space is a bistro table and a pair of chairs, a perfect spot for Gillibrand and Burridge.
“We are often joined by Ziggy, our little Lhasa apso mix who we found abandoned at Governor Nicholls and Burgundy one day,” Gillibrand said. “I think he likes the courtyard as much as we do.”
Friends of the Cabildo Home and Courtyard Tour
WHEN: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday (May 19)
TICKETS: 1850 House Museum (520 St. Ann St.)
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