By Charlie Thigpen
Photography by Beau Gustafson
Pockets of green are popping up all over the Magic City as urban dwellers transform a concrete jungle into gardens and greenery. Richard Carnaggio and Tammy Cohen are a trend-setting couple who began living in downtown Birmingham before living downtown was cool. They are the founders of Cohen Carnaggio Reynolds Architectural firm and they set up shop and built living quarters above their business 10 years ago. They have built their business and have also created a beautiful landscape in the heart of the city, overlooking the iconic smoke stacks of Sloss Furnaces.
The road front and side yard of the business/home is well-groomed and features color from blooming perennials and shrubs almost year-round, but the new backyard is more intimate and perfect for outdoor entertaining and relaxing. Last fall, landscape architect Jane Reed Ross redesigned the backyard, making it more interactive. The attractive garden features a crushed stone patio, a fire pit, a bubbling water feature, and a long L-shaped raised bed used for growing flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Father Nature Landscapes implemented Jane’s plan, transforming the back area in a few short weeks. The L-shaped bed is made of corten steel panels and blends into the backdrop of rustic city relics. The water feature consists of a large stone column that rises out of a pool of black rounded stones. The water bubbles out of the top of the stone column and runs down the sides of the column, making them glisten. The water feature adds sound and movement to the sitting area and creates a focal point.
Tammy asked me to help with installing the plants for the raised bed. I planted pansies, violas, Lemon Ball sedum, sweet William, thyme, chives, oregano, parsley, and winter greens such as Giant Red mustard, kale, and Swiss chard. For the summer, basil, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes will fill the oversized planter. Tammy loves being able to walk outside and harvest produce from her urban backyard.
We rarely think of attractive landscapes in our city but as people move into Birmingham, hopefully more citizens like Tammy and Richard will become good stewards and create glorious gardens that will soften all the concrete and asphalt. Our city is in a growth mode and buildings are popping up everywhere, so let’s be sure that as these structures rise out of the ground, so do flowers, shrubs, and trees. Let’s keep Birmingham beautiful and green!