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Garden Design: A Spectacular Garden on the River



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Story by Gay Lyons | Photography by Ben Finch 

Sharon and Joe Pryse both grew roses prior to their marriage in 2006, but together they grow roses and more in the tiered garden at their Kingston Pike home.

“Sharon [Chairman and CEO of The Trust Company] had a rose garden near the river,” said Joe, who is retired from the medical profession. “I bought my first roses at Home Depot. They turned yellow, and the leaves fell off. When I went back, the clerk recommended ‘Roses for Dummies.’ The first time Sharon showed me her roses, I was able to identify them all and their petal counts.”

When the Pryses expanded their garden onto a large lot to the side of the house, Sharon’s former rose garden became “a picturesque lawn” near the dock.

Joe describes a “fateful day.” The walls and steps at the rear of the house were covered by ivy and euonymus. “I came back from church one Sunday and said ‘I believe I’ll take that ivy off the steps,’” he said. “It took a year. In two years, we saw plants Sharon hadn’t seen in years.”

The ivy clean-up led to the garden that exists today. The Pryses hired noted garden designer Ryan Gainey. “It took a year to design,” said Joe. “It took a year to get everything cleaned out and planted. It took two years before it looked good.”

“[What we call] the temple was created using marble columns from a bank in Nashville,” said Joe. “Ryan Gainey said ‘I know what to do with those.’” While there are many plant types, roses dominate. “We have 120 hybrid tea roses,” said Joe. “We have 60 more on the hillside. The roses on the temple are Yellow Meringue, a climbing rose that doesn’t bloom often. There are 18 White Success roses around the temple. The rose beds in front of the temple are eight feet deep.”

One of the Pryses’ favorite roses is Double Delight. “They have a great scent,” said Joe. “[Granddaughter] Lydia loves to smell the roses. She knows her plants.”

Pointing to a big red rose, he said, “It’s what they use on the blanket [placed on the winning horse at the Kentucky Derby].”

There are Iota peonies, a variety that does not attract ants, black irises, a vegetable garden, an English knot garden and an herb garden. There are three original ponds, one on the slope, one behind the house and a lily pond. Joe pointed out a kousa dogwood. “It blooms on the top,” he said. “It’s so fabulous on the slope to look down on.”

The home has been renovated over the years with the most recent one focusing on the downstairs. “Anyone else would have renovated downstairs years ago,” said Sharon. The area now includes a catering kitchen, guest room and bath, a wine cellar and a flower arranging room. A new garage was added to the side of the house replacing the basement garage.

This is no ordinary garage. “I’m in and out of the garage all the time,” said Sharon. “I want art, crown molding, a chair rail. No pegboards. It’s not a storage area. The floor is the same as at Bennett. When we move the cars and the plastic mats, it’s an overflow entertainment area. It’s Plan B for rain. We can seat 45 for dinner.”

The back porch and the sunroom, which Sharon calls “Joe’s room,” are the couple’s favorites. No wonder. The rooms are cheerful and comfortable, and they offer spectacular views of the garden that is their shared passion.

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