Bright flowers at Lawrence home pass muster with flying colors

John McCaffrey, Lawrence, surveys the home of Eric and Megan Edwards on the 400 block of Lawrence Avenue. McCaffrey, who performs landscaping for several Lawrence clients, has used a colorful array of annuals to brighten up the property.

Grape hyacinth are among the featured flora John McCaffrey likes to use.

If you ever travel down Lawrence Avenue, you have undoubtedly seen the gorgeous garden of the Edwards family. While there are many stunning landscapes on the street, this one is particularly grand. I think it is due to the bones of the garden, but a large reason people seem to notice this place is the use of annuals for color and the juxtaposition of pots filled with unique, often tropical, plants. The oversized, waxy, broad leaves fluttering in the breezes framing a country formal garden just seem to work as effortlessly as hostas and coral bells.

And while the Edwards family is graciously concerned with how the onlooker experiences their garden, Megan Edwards thought the best person to talk about the space was landscaper John McCaffrey.

“Last year we did a lot of orange, yellow and purple,” McCaffrey says. “We want the colors to pop as people drive by, and it’s important to Megan that everyone enjoys the view. In fact, often buses from Brandon Woods will come over and peek around.”

McCaffrey plants many species that naturalize, and then he accentuates those plants with tree peonies and boxwoods to create the country formal feel.

Edwards finds much of her inspirations from magazines, antiquing and travel. The home itself has the stamp of many fabulous “found” objects, from the aged wooden doors to pieces of the gate and garden sculptures in the front yard. Two river birches frame the semi-circle drive, with many spring bulbs splattering a primary color here and there rooted in the tiered limestone beds. On the other side of the driveway a lovely courtyard boasts an ornate iron gate and fence. Those partition off a tidy area with a horseshoe border created out of boxwoods, which showcases an enormous urn with a topiary conifer in a spiral shape. Holly and peonies soften the corners to polish off the courtyard bed.

A female cottonwood tree brings an amazing presence to the front landscape with its odd, fuzzy clustered blooms of maroon fashioning a magical view when you look up. No doubt the headaches ensue when those “blooms” are spent and come careening to the neat, green lawn, but for now the tree is a true showstopper.

While onlookers tend to only see the magnificent front yard, the backyard is an outdoor oasis as well. But because of the tilting topography of the lot, it is a hidden gem.

McCaffrey states, “The sloping nature has been the biggest challenge. We’ve incorporated a lot of rock ledges and limestone steps to help with the unusual decline. I’m glad I’m not the person who mows!”

With large walls of arborvitae sheltering the family and their private living area from the hustle and bustle of Lawrence Avenue, the backyard is a play place for the young and young-at-heart.

The custom-built playground and large expanse of green space is sure to please most kids, but as you explore the backyard there is truly something to put a smile on everyone’s face. The expansive upper deck extends the entire length of the house, and when the large hardwood trees are fully leafed out the deck feels a lot like being in a tree house. The deck overlooks a cozy out-building office space that is adjacent to a full-size tennis/basketball court. The rubbery floor is a feat of modern textiles, gripping and probably great for shock value.

“This was all lawn when they moved in years ago. The family wanted a place to entertain and barbecue – they are very active people. With four kids that are all into sports, it is pretty much non-stop over here,” McCaffrey says.

Just as I think I’ve seen the most impressive natural space we come to the outdoor family room, equipped with an impressive white brick and stone fireplace, built-in cabinetry to wrap around and enclose the “room.” The mantle has an elaborate mirror reflecting the blue sky. The cushions on the worn wooden and rustic iron furnishings are a lime green and cream color, beckoning a person to sit and watch the fire roar on a chilly spring evening.

“Megan likes Tuscany and wanted the garden and this area to reveal that,” McCaffrey says. “She loves to get online and discover fun antiques. Megan saw this fireplace idea in a magazine, and we just recreated it.”

McCaffrey says he researched plants that grew in Tuscany and then adapted that sense to flora that will thrive in Kansas.

“I’m allowed to use my creativity here; we change things up every year so it doesn’t look the same by using different colors and annuals, ” McCaffrey says. “I fill in the gaps and cracks with color.”