Story By: Carol Lauvray
Photography By: Susan DeLoach
Stuart and Wayne Heath are the quintessential Southern couple, personifying gracious hospitality. Their gorgeous Lowcountry home and garden, located in Beaufort’s historic district, look as if they are straight from the pages of Southern Living—and in fact, they have been featured in that magazine!
Wayne hails from Charleston, where he grew up on the peninsula just down from the Citadel with an innate love of gardens and gardening. “Seeing gardens filled with azaleas and camellias and smelling the fragrance of tea olives takes me back to Charleston,” he reminisces. Stuart says, “Every Southern girl needs ‘yard flowers’ to cut and enjoy inside as well as outside—magnolias, hydrangeas, camellias and roses—and herbs like rosemary and mint. Jasmine is green all year and Confederate Jasmine is fragrant in the spring when it flowers,” she adds.
The Clemson Years
Stuart moved to Clemson during the fifth grade with her parents. She met Wayne in 1966 at Lake Hartwell, they married in 1975, and both spent their careers teaching in Clemson-area schools before retiring. Wayne says the half-acre of gardens at their first Clemson home included a lot of azaleas and Lady Banksia roses. After 17 years there, they moved to a three-acre wooded property surrounded on three sides by Lake Hartwell. “We could not see our closest neighbor for the trees,” Stuart emphasized. “We had sun gardens, shade gardens, and rose and herb gardens,” she added. Because Wayne had grown up on the South Carolina coast and he wanted to include as many native species on their Lake Hartwell property as possible, he participated in the Native Plant Society in Clemson to learn more about plants native to that area. He also enrolled in the Master Gardener Program, which covered turf grasses, ground covers, propagation and soil analysis. Then he participated in the Upstate Master Naturalist Program, which focused on the native plants of the Piedmont foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as invasive species. Stuart also enjoyed gardening and was a member of the Clemson Garden Club.
While living in Clemson, Stuart and Wayne frequently visited Beaufort to see Stuart’s college roommate and long-time friend, Patsy Hand, and her husband Owen, who live on St. Helena Island. When Stuart and Wayne decided it was time to downsize, moving to Beaufort was a natural choice for the couple and in 2012 they built a home in Beaufort’s historic district, embarking on a new gardening adventure in the Lowcountry.
At Home in Beaufort
Stuart explains, “We started with a bare lot, 40 feet by 100 feet. There were no trees—only dirt! In Midtown Square, houses are very close to each other and we knew that we wanted tall fences for privacy—both for us and for our neighbors. We built six-foot privacy fences as a backdrop for plants, shrubs, and a few trees that provide shade, as well as color. The Savannah holly will never outgrow the space, so it’s the perfect tree for shade and it has red berries all year to attract birds. The Yaupon hollies, which remain green all year and have red berries, provide height on both sides of the yard and grow in an interesting ‘weepy’ shape. The pergola will eventually be a full green space with jasmine creating another ‘tree’ for shade. The top of the pergola has a clear greenhouse roof to keep the rain out and we use the area as a drink station or to serve when we entertain. For lighting, we’ve mounted fairy lights under the roof and we also have strings of clear bulbs crisscrossing overhead in the patio area for entertaining at night.”
“Our objective in defining the garden space was to control our view from every room of the house—so we would see greenery instead of the houses on each side of us, and so our neighbors would have a green view instead of looking at the side of our house. One way we achieved this was by moving the garage to the side of the lot to trick the eye into seeing more green space when we are inside in our sunroom, which looks out onto the patio. Doing that also allowed space to plant a Little Gem Magnolia tree and Mondo grass, as well as the addition of a defined walkway and gate between our house and the neighbors’ house. The additional space also gives our dog Duncan a place to run. We drew the shape of the patio, which is made of tabby edged with old Savannah bricks (the same type of bricks used on the front and back steps and the living room fireplace), freehand with a stick once the house and garage were finished,” she explained.
Stuart says that the enclosed patio area is sheltered from the weather and so provides a safe place for their cat Sparrow and dog Duncan to be outdoors and away from traffic. “It has taken almost five years to develop some shade in back of our home. Wayne regularly trims the pyracantha to strengthen it and to train it to hug the garage wall. We see its greenery and red berries from our kitchen, sunroom and bedroom all year. The bank of windows in the master bedroom overlooks the backyard and opens up our small bedroom to bring in the patio area,” she added.
“Under our bedroom windows and next to the patio are holly ferns—a great choice because they are low maintenance, have just enough shade there to thrive, and remind us of the banks of holly at our last home in the Upstate,” Stuart stated. “There is a wide brick stoop under the French doors that lead from the sunroom out to the patio. These wide steps provide extra seating when we entertain and space for container plants that we can change seasonally. We also encourage creeping fig, which stays green all year, to cover some of the space on the steps.”
“The side yard with the grilling station is out of view and does not take up our limited patio space, but the area is accessible from the patio. It’s the perfect place for several hydrangea bushes that bloom all summer and fall, and for ferns and climbing pyracantha. The narrow ‘alley’ on the other side of our home, outside the kitchen and sunroom windows, has become a shady tunnel of jasmine. A decorative topper on the fence there allows the jasmine to cascade over as it grows, providing privacy, shade for plants, and another run area for our dog. Wayne enjoys collecting different varieties of ferns for this spot,” explained Stuart.
“The French doors leading into the garage from the patio make the area appear larger and less like a garage,” she says. “Just inside the garage, there is a small area with a counter, upper and lower cabinets, a sink and a refrigerator. Our ‘mini-kitchen’ is stocked with everything needed to entertain and has hardwood flooring. Until recently, we invited friends to join us for our annual New Year’s Day lunch served buffet-style in our garage. We would clear the garage, roll out an old Oriental rug to cover the concrete floor, and set up a dining room to accommodate 30 seated guests. The first year that we lived in Beaufort, 30 friends attended the lunch, but by the time we held the final event two years ago, the guest list had reached 80! So after 40 years, we decided it was time to end the tradition. We had great fun over the years at our New Year’s lunch and proved to ourselves that we could entertain in style in our limited space!”
Since moving to Beaufort, Stuart (who is now a member of the Sea Island Garden Club) and Wayne have created a beautiful backyard sanctuary to enjoy, whether they are inside their home or outside on the patio. And in true Southern style, they continue their role as gracious hosts to friends and neighbors in their lovely home and their magical garden.