Thirty years ago, Mark Ramsey purchased a charming, historic home in Riverview with a large lot after deciding it was time to put down roots – his own and his garden’s.
The back lot, which was once used for dog breeding, was wildly overgrown when he moved in. After having the whole area cleared, Mark had a blank palette that he painted with perennials, pathways, and his now signature hydrangeas.
His enthusiasm for gardening was sparked as a child and has since grown into his 90-plus collection of hydrangea plants. “My mom would give me a little patch to work on when I was a child. I would plant marigolds, which are instantly showy. And she always had beautiful hydrangeas that she kept. My aunt and grandmother always had hydrangeas too, and I just came to love the way they looked,” Mark shares.
The lot is loosely formed into three separate areas. First is the parterre, a more formal, French-styled section of manicured, mazing boxwoods. The stepping stone path that winds through is punctuated by potted trellis plants.
Stepping down into the heart of the garden is the second section. Here, multi-colored hydrangeas surround a Tennessee crab orchard stone walkway and a long, tiered water feature, which Mark created out of the former dog breeder’s watering trough. Following the walkway, you find yourself, finally, in what Mark refers to as “the back 40.” This is the only space reserved for a manicured greenway. The lawn is lined with stunning evergreen shrubs and a mixture of what some would call weeds, but Mark sees them as whimsical flowering filler.
Mark’s garden has been featured in the Riverview garden tour numerous times as well as a spread in Southern Living magazine. His hydrangea collection of 90 or more plants includes limelights, French mopheads, Sister Theresas, and other varieties. “I don’t manipulate the soil to achieve certain colors, and they grow in pink and blue and purple, all on the same plant. That indicates balanced soil,” he says. Mark fills in around the hydrangeas with a multitude of hostas, ferns, and bulb flowers that provide both spring color and year-round filler.
Whether hosting garden parties, placing sculptures, or discussing the landscape with his neighbors, Mark finds fulfillment in cultivating a structured, beautiful space. As he explains it, “Gardening is a relaxing activity for me, because I enjoy the results of imposing my order on nature.”