Interview with Anne Sheldon, Atlanta Gardener

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner


Anne Gardner, sitting on deck

I have had the pleasure of knowing Anne Sheldon both professionally and personally for many years. 

Anne is the past president of the Georgia Perennial Plant Association, a voracious gardener, amazing cook, and a retired teacher of orchestra. She is also an accomplished musician; her instrument is cello.  She and her husband Andy live in Virginia Highland, an in town neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia on a 50 x 145 foot lot. In late February I sat down to talk with Anne about her garden and her approach to garden design. What follows are excerpts from our conversation.  

For Anne, gardening, like music, is an artistic endeavor, a creative process, one whose outcome we can’t always control. When she approaches a design problem she considers beauty, function and form. Over the years, she has spent a lot of time thinking about the seasons, standing in her house, looking out. In the outdoor space, she observes the role the sun plays in the different seasons.  

Her small eclectic urban garden is beautifully designed, filled with inspiring plant combinations for every season.  The garden is integrated with the style of the house, including the interior and colors she uses, inside and out. She had been gardening in the same spot for 27 years. One thing you notice right away is that all the windows in the house offer a view to outdoor garden spaces. The garden itself is divided into different areas or rooms. 


Driveway Garden


On one side of the house only seven feet separate her from the neighbor; on the other, the existing single car driveway (which dates back to 1922, when her house was built) now serves as an entrance alley garden. There are fragrant plants and window boxes on her house, and for years the neighbors have let Anne use this space to garden right up to their house too (although she does her best to keep plants off the house).  A lovely gate leads from the driveway to the back garden.   


Anne Sheldon, Garden Window boxhedge


Her small front garden faces a brick street where people park on both sides. One of the first things she did when they purchased the house was to plant a hedge. The house sits up three or four steps and one had the feeling of falling into the street.  Now with a six ft high hedge they don’t need to look at cars and they have an outdoor room with privacy. At one point Anne decided to put a window in the hedge so people could get glimpse of the garden when they walk by. It’s hard to imagine that this elegant tiny space, filled with perennials, bulbs, annuals, roses and herbs, as well as deciduous and evergreen shrubs, was once a patch of Bermuda lawn and “lollypop shaped” junipers. Turf is noticeably absent and in its place is a small stone patio with a table and chairs where she and Andy enjoy relaxing and dining. 


Outdoor Dining


Because the house is built into a hill, the backyard has several different levels. Off the back off the house, the family room opens to a ground level outdoor dining area and two additional seating areas. To access the other levels, there are multiple sets of steps. Several ponds attract wildlife. A recent renovation, due to the removal of an 85 year old oak, provided both a challenge and an opportunity. What was a mature shade garden became a full sun garden overnight.  With neighbors on three sides, Anne’s plant choices were guided by her desire for privacy. For an evergreen screen she planted Thuja occidentalis ‘Green Giant’ and Viburnum ‘Awabuki.’


Front Garden with Seating


Some of Anne’s favorite “go to” plants for Zone 8a (was 7b) include opium poppies, Nigella damescena, also known as Love-in-a-mist, the native larkspur, Delphenium and perennials like Kalimeris Pinntifida and Calamintha Nepeta


Fall Scene in Ann's Garden


When it comes to why she gardens, Anne says “she doesn’t have a choice” – it’s the creativity of life. She is always drawn to artistic creative endeavors.