By Sharron Johnson
In ancient Roman times, before 150 B.C., we would be celebrating a Happy New Year right about now because the calendar only had 10 months beginning in March. January and February comprised one giant, unassigned block or winter.
Ah, the end of winter. Many folk and l are jumping for joy with the mere mention of — shall we all say it together — SPRING! Winter was in like a lion this year and will, hopefully, be out like a lamb. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map has in our zone 11 an average last day of frost in mid-April. So, don’t get too antsy to start planting outdoors. ’Tis the season to assess the winter damage and start seed starters indoors. The Ides of March is ideal, unless you are Julius Cesar.
A good rule of thumb is to start your veggie and annual flowers seeds 6 weeks before the end of frost. A constant temperature of 65-70 degrees would be optimal for germination and a sunny window. Don’t forget to keep the planting medium damp. I find a spray mist bottle works best, so not to drown them. 7-10 days before you need to plant the seedlings, set the wee plants in dappled sun so they can harden. This is so they can be acclimated to the outdoor conditions, such as the wind and sun. Don’t forget to keep them misted during this time, and move them into more direct sun. This should keep even the novice gardener busy while we celebrate our green thumbs with some green beer and anything else that can be dyed green.
A few more cool facts about March:
Daylight Savings Time begins on the March 11. Yay, longer days are a coming!
For math lovers, National Pi Day is, duh, March 14.
And, saving the best for last, the Day of the Dude, celebrating the lead character from the cult favorite film The Big Lebowski, is March 6. I think the 18th of March would be better suited to celebrate being a slacker because St Patrick’s Day is the 17th. Even gardeners need a day off and out of their element.
Oliver Street is one of the most delightful in Cooper-Young, which explains why there have been many gardens on this street featured in yard of the month. Here’s another one that deserves attention. This one is located at 2042 Oliver. You can see it as you travel west off of Tanglewood. This south facing property is loaded with sun. Definitely a Queen Anne with distinction. It is a clapboard built in the 1920’s painted a sweet robin egg blue trimmed in a dark brown. The soffit and fascia of the porch are a bright white. The porch is an L shaped, wrap-around sleeping porch. Once upon a time ago the porches on these older houses served as a stoop to greet guests, a place to visit with neighbors, and of course a place to sleep on those hot summers for which the Mid-South is so famous. These days, it is a quick spot to check one’s cell phone or grab a smoke. If you drive around at night, you can see folks looking at their hand with an eerie glow in their face. The new porch light!
But seriously, there’s a lot of real estate out there to use. Looking from the street, the homeowners, Erik Jambor and Robin Salant, have put in a new sidewalk and driveway that gives the garden a crisp and clean look. The yard’s western edge is a multi-sensory experience with a massive rosemary bush abutting prickly pear cacti, some touchable, some not. The prickly pear appears to be emerging from an outcropping of Arkansas field stones. The stone outcropping continues to the east side of the sidewalk. This side is intermingled with perennials serving as grout. The front entrance beds are filled with various roses, buddleia, pine tree, azalea, dogwood, and fig trees. The flowers are a red and white themed. Art pieces, such as architectural scraps and a bottle tree, are scattered about. As visitors travel toward the porch there are planted beds to and fro. One is a figure eight that is home for a patio peach and an American plum. Continuing on, there is an herb bed filled with lavender, rosemary, Cuban sage and lamb’s ear. In the middle of this bed is a handmade wire petty coat that is engulfed with keys of all kinds, creating a wind catcher of sorts. This is very unexpected and unique.
Bordering the house and porch are azalea and boxwood. This area is under-planted with monkey grass. A nandina, juniper and a row of Carolina cherry laurel cocooning the property. The windows on the house are well proportioned and have a what I refer to as a tulip design on the upper sash. A smaller version of the aforementioned window is located on the porch. A Palladio-style window is in one of the two upper gables. The other gable has an arched vent that matches in form. A Palladio window has a distinctive style with an upper, open fan shape. Its name sake is an Italian architect that lived in the 1500’s named Andrea Palladio. This style was influenced by Roman and Greek design. The front door has been kept in a natural wood stain. The window in the door has been etched to feature a map of Cooper-Young.
As I enter the back of the property, I see an addition has been added to the house. It’s a two-story back porch. The two levels are different. The lower level is screened and accented with metal livestock fencing, creating a bug or random goat free zone. It is well equipped with a hands-free sink and an outdoor kitchen. Two ceiling fans were added to keep the guests comfy. A beaded board ceiling is in keeping with Midtown porch fashion. Plenty of space for a monster dining table. The upper deck is open air with a corrugated tin roof. Painted a tropical blue and green, it’s like being on the beach. There is bistro seating upon a tile floor and another ceiling fan in case the breeze is at a minimum. The back lawn is a zoysia play area encased with a wooden fence. Recycled bricks create a floor to keep the kiddos feet clean. Plantings includes banana trees, cannas, mayapples. This is a sweet garden with unexpected delights for any visitor.
Robin, please help the reader learn a bit about you all. Are you and Erik from Memphis? If not, share where you hail from.
Erik grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where he founded and directed Sidewalk Film Festival for its first eight years. Erik relocated to Memphis in 2008 when he was hired to run the Indie Memphis Film Festival. I grew up in Seattle, Washington, and moved to Memphis in 2000 to experience and explore the nation’s middle after having lived and worked on both coasts. I attended Memphis College of Art and worked as a freelance photographer for the Memphis Flyer, Memphis Magazine, the Recording Academy and private clients.
Are you two from big families?
Our immediate family of three recently grew with the arrival of our second daughter in 2017. Outside of our home our closest relative is Erik’s sister and her family who live in Arlington, TN. We both have family spread out across the globe, and we try to make the most of that opportunity to stay with relatives and deepen the long-distance relationships while exploring the different regions. We are fortunate to have fun and welcoming relatives in interesting places. Erik’s mother is Latvian and preserving that culture is important to her, so we integrate Latvian culture and tradition into our family life and are planning a family trip to Latvia in the coming years. I have many close relatives living in Europe, and we have traveled as a family to visit them and maintain our relationships via video-chat apps, like FaceTime and Skype.
What are your professions?
My mother grew up in Oregon, just hours from where Erik works half the year programming the BendFilm Festival, a regional festival in Oregon’s high desert. For two years we have taken the opportunity of crossing the country to visit relatives and explore the nation’s beautiful terrain. The remainder of the year, Erik continues to work in the film industry, exploring indie projects, and advising festivals.
I work as an artist. Recent community projects in Memphis include the kinetic light installation “Urban Meridians” occupying a three-story building on the corner of Union and Main Street downtown, and “Crosstown Lights”, a two-phase solar light installation in the south facing windows and the water tower of what is now the Crosstown Concourse. I also work in property management and the real estate industry, with specific interest in sustainability, community development, and share economy. In 2015 I proposed a model for a collaborative artists space with studios, tool-share, gift shop and gallery space as a recipient for a large public art grant, which I did not win.
Where did you two meet, and how long have you been married now?
I was festival photographer for Indie Memphis when they brought Erik to Memphis, and we met at Otherlands to discuss photo priorities of the festival. It would be another year before we would date. Our first date was a Leonard Cohen concert in Nashville, which meant several hours in a car both ways, so we’re glad it worked out. That was in 2009, and we married here in Memphis three years later.
Tell us about your two girlies and Simone’s garden.
Much of the yardwork and improvements happen when Simone’s vecmama (Latvian for ‘grandmother’) is visiting. She is a garden enthusiast, and when I mentioned to her that I would like to plant a touch and smell garden for Simone, she came armed with ambition and mulch. We planted lamb’s ear, lavender. and other herbs, and a butterfly bush. A couple of years later we added roses. She loves the “discarded histories” petticoat made for Memphis City Beautiful’s Trashion show in 2014. Children love to go inside the dome and shake the skirt to hear the keys jingle. Several neighbors have brought their leftover keys and stories to become a part of this piece over time. It sits in the center of the touch and smell garden.
There is also a row of colorful bulbs planted along the new water main, inspired by a great book “Planting A Rainbow.”
How long have you all been in CY?
I bought this house in 2003, out of foreclosure. I loved the location and the swing on the wrap-around porch. I needed a place where I could park my 10’ box truck off the street, which eliminated a large percentage of the available market. I wanted a walkable/bike-able location, and since I would be traveling often and living alone I wanted a location with frequent foot traffic. At the time I was taking any travel work that I could get, and with close neighbors and great roommates this was a good solution.
Why did you two choose CY?
Two of my earliest close friends in Memphis lived in or near Cooper Young, one on Carr, and one on Elzey, both near Cooper. I blame them.
Also, I was drawn to the character of the neighborhood, which to me was a result of the social diversity (economic, generational, racial), Jay Etkin’s gallery, the Deli, Java Cabana and the church of Elvis, the density of artists, and quirky yards and houses. Shortly after Erik moved in with me in 2011, we began looking for a place together, but never found a location or a home that we preferred to this one. After more than a decade drawing possible renovation plans, and five years watching the market, we pulled the trigger and expanded our home.
What is your garden style?
Eclectic opportunism, accepting volunteers daily. The curvaceous shape of the front bed was designed by Ceylon Mooney. The plantings have been collaborative between Mara, Robin, Simone, and native birds. The front bed includes salvaged cacti and architectural remnants from the former Anderton’s Oyster Bar in Midtown. Several friends have brought their leftover plants. Mara has brought trimmings from her garden in Birmingham, and we have nabbed several bulbs and shrubs from local curbs. The giant rosemary came from a friend in Germantown and has thrived.”
What was the garden like when you moved in?
There was no garden, per se, when we moved in though there was some landscaping, including the hydrangea and two juniper species near the house, as well as a box shrub facing the front porch and a lovely dogwood tree centering the side opposite our driveway. That sweet dogwood is now a ghost of its former self after having been crushed multiple times by large branches from an oak next door. That oak has since been removed after falling completely. In light of our neighborhood oaks coming of ripe old age, we have planted a native oak sapling out front. We have also planted a patio peach, a fig, and a native American plum sapling. Both native saplings came from Mike Larrivee and the Native Plants for Memphis initiative. The pine is a volunteer.”
Are there any future plans for your space?
Hopefully we will find better placement for our trees this spring and try out pine needle instead of bark mulch.
We’d like to eventually add a ramp to the front of the house and build out our front yard seating area a bit more. And though it will be tough, eventually the dogwood will surrender. Our little dogwood-that-could is already losing its bark in large patches. The backyard awaits our attention since the remodel, as the grass has only just begun to grow back. There is a native olive tree that Greg Touliatos has that we would like to plant for Robin’s brother (Dan Oliver) who we lost last year. No shortage of projects around here!!
Are there any changes you’d like to see here in CY?
I would love to see our sidewalks and wheelchair ramps repaired and see residents and sanitation workers become more aware and mindful of the importance of our sidewalks. People in wheelchairs and people with strollers need safe sidewalks, and too often they are un-navigable, even to pedestrians. I hope we can maintain the neighborhood’s character by not out-pricing artists or regulating our neighborhood aesthetics for conformity. I love the eclectic funky styles of Cooper-Young.
Thank you for being one of the gardens on the Cooper Young Garden Walk for a second year now. Can you share your experience with the readers?
I have yet to get to “walk the walk”, as when possible we are here at the house greeting garden-walkers, answering questions, and sharing lemonade and stories.