The New Orleans look

Gardens: The New Orleans look

The New Orleans look

A trip to New Orleans inspired the design of Sandy and Rex Bradfield's garden.

Story: Sarah Lohman

Photos: Robert K. O'Daniell

Sandy and Rex Bradfield’s garden is a picture of New Orleans. The pair went on a trip to New Orleans, where they saw tiny patches of garden scattered throughout the Garden District. They had wanted to do something with their small yard, and the trip gave them the inspiration they needed.

The Bradfields’ garden is full of tall tropical plants — Sandy’s favorite plants — and interesting sculptural pieces.

“They’re exuberant and bright, wonderful, rich colors,” Sandy said. “They’re prolific in bloom, so, unlike a perennial that blooms for a little bit and it’s done, they will bloom constantly as long as the conditions are right,” Sandy said.

She started gardening 10 years ago, and her garden has constantly evolved. She moves things around, looking for the best picture. “It’s sort of like you are in the house. ‘Oh, I’m tired of this here. Let’s move it somewhere else,'” Sandy said.

The garden is full of interesting sculptures and benches. The Bradfields’ collection of sculptures, pergolas, birdbaths and fountains took years to collect and come from a variety of stores, such as T.J. Maxx, Prairie Gardens and F.S. Farmtown.

Sandy said the arches and sculptures in her garden are interesting and add to the New Orleans’ ambiance. Sandy likes to add birdbaths to her garden, and at least three of them are from F.S. Farmtown, where she buys pieces of birdbaths. Some of the birdbath pedestals are topped with gazing balls that were purchased on eBay.

“The more birdbaths you have out, the happier the birds are,” Sandy said. “There’s never a day passed that you don’t see some birds in all of them.” They also created an elaborate bird feeding area in the backyard, complete with food for the squirrels.

“We feed everything. We have raccoons, there’s possums, there’s cats. You name it, we feed it,” Rex said. “We’ve even had a skunk. Came by and had some peanuts and then left.”
The bird feeders are easy to remove, and the wall surrounding them is just the right height to sit on, making the area transform quickly to a space for entertaining. They also added fences, breaking the garden into separate rooms that make it feel larger. The patios are made of stamped concrete that looks like brick. They installed the winding path through the garden themselves.

The Bradfields’ Urbana garden was on the 2010 Garden Walk, and they stressed that gardeners don’t need to spend lots of money to get the look they want.
“We always wait until we can find something at about half price,” Rex said. “Even though it looks expensive, it wasn’t.”

They also saved money by doing a lot of the work themselves.

“We spent a little bit each year, and the other part of it was our backbone,” Rex said. “That’s it. That’s how we got it all done.”

Sandy advises new gardeners to have a plan before they start gardening. Research the conditions available in your garden and choose plants based on the amount of sun available in your space. Then choose plants you like that should thrive in that environment. Sandy said to also remember that plans can change, and she said if a plant is unhappy where you put it, don’t be afraid to revise the plan and move it elsewhere.