Personal Space

Story Jan Swoope | Photograph Luisa Porter

Going outside. That’s what Janice and Clyde Hollis sometimes call stepping out their back door to the personal getaway they’ve got going behind the house in north Columbus. It started out as a drawing by Clyde — on a napkin. After contractor Tommy Johnson II applied his know-how about four years ago, the secluded knoll there began to bloom, first with the addition of Janice’s potting shed and plantings and soon, Clyde’s birdhouses. Today, lush banks of azaleas cover the ridge, interspersed with white-pebbled paths, decking and conversation areas. Fire pits add cozy to nippy spring nights.   

The birdhouses number near 60 and include some specialties, like one resembling a railroad lantern. Clyde’s father was a railroad man. Hydrangea bushes near the shed began as cuttings from Janice’s mother’s hydrangeas. A rusted wheelbarrow that overflows with lantana in summer and pumpkins in autumn belonged to her dad.

The potting shed? It’s become a charming retreat, with its quilt-covered bed and framed drawings by grandchildren. Just right for an afternoon in the company of a good book.

The real “dirt work” takes place on tables behind the shed. Clyde claims he is “kind of the hole digger.”

Janice admits all this communing with nature took her family a bit by surprise.

“When I turned 50, I started working in my garden and drinking coffee,” she says. “My children were shocked.” They like the results, though.

“Going outside” at the Hollis home can feel like going “500 miles away.”

“Most people don’t know it’s back here,” says Janice. “It’s kind of a secret garden.”