Charlotte Home & Garden
An Antique Garden Image Credit: Charlotte Home & Garden
An Antique Garden Image Credit: Charlotte Home & Garden

An Antique Garden

Building a historic garden for a historic home

Anna Van Erven
Sitting amid a row of bungalows, the historic Helms-Bell House emerges like an illustration in a pop-up book: Pink phlox and green gooseneck loosestrife grow waist-high in the garden bed along the worn brick walkway leading up to the Victorian home. A pink crape myrtle overlooks the left side of the home, while on the right side, dark rose vines snake through a trellis, unleashing a multitude of green leaves.The inspiration for these plants is the house itself, a local historic landmark built in 1899 off of Morehead Street, near the present-day Dowd YMCA. Allen Brooks, an architect who specializes in historic preservation, bought it in 1998, after learning of its impending demolition. He then purchased this lot on Euclid Avenue in Dilworth and moved the Helms-Bell House here, joining it to the existing ranch house on the site. “The house is over 100 feet in length. It doesn’t leave too much room for a garden,” Brooks says. So he built four, one on each side of the house. Brooks intended for each to be unique, but all are historically relevant, meaning each small landscape could have existed in 1899. Walking along the left of the house toward the backyard, Brooks passes hydrangeas and herbs. He stops in front of an overgrown bay tree and grabs a jutting branch, then breaks it off. “Smell,” he says, bringing the sweet aroma closer to his nose.

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