A fairy tale garden for a hobbit
Inspired by Tolkien's book, Sleeping Beauty's castle, and an abandoned medieval town, a fairy tale garden in Texas would be just right for hobbits.
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The house, finished in 2006, initially was to be a replica of White O'Morn, the whitewashed stone cottage that John Wayne's character in "The Quiet Man" reclaims in the Irish village of his birth.Skip to next paragraph
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"We told them to put up the cheapest stone because we were going to whitewash it," says the owner. The stonemasons' work turned out "too stately, too fancy, too nice" to be masked by paint and, besides, the city of Dallas would not allow a thatch roof.
The architecture's premise, therefore, became a "Tolkien-inspired cottage." Hipped roofs facing this way and that are shingled with a deliberate jumble of old slate, new slate, tiles and other materials.
Fixtures, furnishings and finishes live up to the high-fantasy descriptions in J.R.R. Tolkien's fiction. There are replicated eagle's nests used as light fixtures in the high-ceilinged living room, a grottolike powder bath with intricate shell mosaics covering the walls and a secret passageway in the study.
Just outside the house, close enough for tea parties, there is a custom Edwardian conservatory furnished with another faux-bois concrete table and chairs. Finsley furnished the climate-controlled glass house with ferns and other humidity-loving plants.
Some of the fanciful elements came about as solutions to difficult drainage. The property is at the low point on the street's undulating terrain. Rainstorms, groundwater, and neighbors' poorly designed irrigation systems send water streaming from all sides to collect here.
At first, the design team thought to bury a network of drains to direct the water to the creek below the house.
"There's water draining down here 24-7," says Jason Craven, president of Southern Botanical. "Even during the worst drought in 50 years. We said, why not capture it?"
Consequently, a deeply set brook that recirculates and seeps over mossy rocks was constructed like a moat along the front facade of the house.
Overflow is directed through a series of channels to the back of the house to fill a deep cistern 10 feet above and 10 feet below the ground. If it fills to capacity, which it did this summer with all the rain, an overflow spout near the top splashes 10 feet to a waterway leading to the lazy creek.
A natural-looking pool is fitted with aerators to keep the water moving to thwart mosquitoes' hatching. The water also has been stocked with minnowlike mosquito fish, also called gambusia, which eat mosquito larvae.
The cistern, which also serves as an overlook into the woods (or a fort or a prison tower, depending on who's playing what imaginary game), has a 12-inch-thick rock veneer. Southern Botanical's crew dug the below-ground space by hand and jackhammer, then hauled out the rock and dirt in wheelbarrows.
"It's in solid, solid, solid, solid rock," says Jason New, Southern Botanical's manager of the ongoing project. "We couldn't get machinery in here without tearing everything up."
"That's why there are still woods around here," Finsley says. "We lost no trees to construction damage."
"And she has never used a drop of city water to irrigate," Mr. New adds.