Axis Point A Story of Garden Design from Concept to Installation by Sam Thorp Engler

It all started with a new house and an empty yard. A clean slate if you will. A canvas that would soon prove to introduce a dream garden that ultimately ties this lonely brick home into a fluent mixture of architecture and landscape.  A mid century-modern masterpiece. I have had the pleasure of working on this chaotic garden design from its earliest stages; where we began by focusing in depth on the layout of the back yard and its connection with the garage and patio. The axis point. 


Jenks’ original sketch started without putting limits on the design possibilities. Even though the patio shape changes, the axis was established from the first time we walked through the new space. 

The axis point can be defined as a simple point in the garden’s design where an individual’s eye is drawn each time. In this case a pond full of water hyacinth, koi, and frog, surrounded by a didactic mixture of semi-aqueous plants. Full bloom or not, this point in the garden will hold true to its purpose. This pond is the heart of the whole landscape and hardscape, bringing a smooth transition from home to garden.

After the axis point was set in stone, the next step was transporting the client’s previous garden, that was planted around heavy shade, into new light through a yard with practically full sun apart from one large tree and one camellia. Deciduous hollies with red berries to attract native birds, along with loads of japanese maple, ferns, and hostas all grown from seed, moved to find refuge in this empty yard that would soon become our clients dream. Every single pot and plant has made its way into this yard, accumulating into a mess of ceramic and green foliage.


The axis before (top) and after one year (above).

The  next step in the process was to open up the back patio so that the home could have room to welcome the landscape. This was done by removing the bland back deck completely and replacing it with a curving brick patio that complimented the flow of flower beds throughout the backyard. There was originally one small opening along the backside of the home that was opened up into three large windows lining the brick patio, allowing for a direct path of vision leading to the garden’s axis point. Everything was beginning to come together in terms of the home and the landscape.

The next goal was to distract the individual’s eye from the plastic garage to create a social space for family and friends focused on ornamental horticulture and the axis point of the garden rather than a swimming pool given that the client was a keen gardener along with her close relatives. This was easier than expected because it simply needed to be covered from the naked eye while still allowing for a point of entry. A copper curtain, made from some old roofing Bonnie scavenged was hung on one end of the entrance coupled with a lattice wall on the other end that was complemented by certain sculptures and figurines that the client desired.


In this video above, the basin was made from a galvanized cattle trough. Here’s a how-to-video on how we paint them. 

In  this place, Bonnie’s new garden and patio, I  sat and studied my surroundings. I just sat and observed the layout, the sun, the wind and the shadows and  soon I started to sense a pattern and a rhythm to this place while a calmness enveloped me.  Vivid colors and distinct shapes began to surround me as the landscape and hardscape began to connect.  I let these thoughts swirl in my head as I leaned back to appreciate the art within my surroundings. The art that I was ultimately a part of providing for another. I have always had a special awe and appreciation for the beauty that has always seemed to surround me no matter where I stood.  And I know Bonnie, who let us make this garden for her, does too.  Opinionated, some might say bossy, Bonnie’s home, inside, outside, in fact her whole life seem a swirl of rich handcrafted works, rugs, painting, sculptures, fountains, trees and of course plants — all held down in a lovely mix by paying attention to the axis. 


        Sam Engler has been an intern on the farm and in garden design and installation.  He’s worked with Jenks’ design team on this garden since initial design meetings. 

He’s a sophomore at Georgia College and a talented writer and natural teacher. 



  1. Dana Gates on July 7, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    What an awesome transition! Looks like a peaceful paradise.

  2. Walter Fisk on July 8, 2020 at 11:32 am

    Great job by Sam. I think he has found his calling.

    • Jenks Farmer on July 8, 2020 at 5:24 pm

      He is a talented, natural writer.

  3. Diane Fisk on July 8, 2020 at 11:36 am

    Well written tour through the creation of a beautiful space. Showed good planning as well as execution. Your love of nature is obvious. Follow your dream.

    • Lois Hardeman on July 8, 2020 at 6:51 pm

      Not only did I enjoy viewing the transformation of this yard, but your gift of words made it just as enjoyable! Gifted…I would say very gifted!

      • Jenks Farmer on July 9, 2020 at 6:08 am

        Yes. Me too!

  4. Martha Hayes on July 8, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    Beautiful design, inspired words – or maybe it’s inspired design, beautiful words. In any case, an education delivered in the most inspirational way. Keep designing, keep writing.

  5. Caleb Melchior on July 8, 2020 at 7:57 pm

    Hey Sam – I really like this. I love how you’re thinking about how things are built, put together – how you’re telling that story. Your writing also really illuminates how this person and their personality is revealed in the physical place. Great work – can’t wait to read more!

    • Jenks Farmer on July 9, 2020 at 6:07 am

      Thanks Caleb, I’ll pass this on to Sam. I’m not sure he understands how rare it is for someone to think about something like this then put it down, re-shape the words a bit and have complete, conversation essay that conveys his thoughts.

  6. Phil steude on July 8, 2020 at 10:05 pm

    Very well written, the story took me there. I love how you took a house that fenced out nature with its barrier around the deck and invited the outside in.

    • Jenks Farmer on July 9, 2020 at 6:05 am

      Thanks Phil — there’s a lot more too it too. I love that when you open their front door, you see all the way through the house and into the garden.

  7. Erika Schneider on July 8, 2020 at 11:31 pm

    To create a garden is to create joy! This space will bring beauty and life to everyone who spends time there. Including the frogs! Absolutely love it.

    • Jenks Farmer on July 9, 2020 at 6:04 am

      And luckily, we get to work in it!

  8. Mandie Shuman Williams on July 9, 2020 at 8:34 am

    Thank you, Sam for the tour of your beautiful design! You have a bright future a head of you!

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