The first thing Sheldon did, with the help of her husband, Andy, was replace the lawn with flowerbeds and plant a Korean boxwood hedge at the front sidewalk. The hedge enclosed the front yard and created a garden room as a welcoming entry. Brick pavers and bluestone set in gravel replaced a narrow sidewalk.
"This front garden is so hot that I can grow all my Mediterranean herbs here, such as thyme, oregano, rosemary, and marjoram," Sheldon says. Atlanta sits reliably in Zone 7b, but she believes her site's conditions steer it more toward Zone 8. The garden retains heat into the night from warmth radiated by the pavers and captured by the enclosed space. For this garden, Sheldon selects plants that are heat-and drought-tolerant plus disease-resistant, such as a Knock Out rose, daylilies, bearded and Siberian irises, and 'Annabelle' hydrangeas.
The house was originally white, but Sheldon felt that was too harsh for the ovenlike summer climate. She painted it an earthy peach color, reflective of her western roots, with accents of blue on the doors and shutters. Most of the containers are clay, repeating the terra-cotta refrain. Blue obelisks play as staccato notes against the cooling green foliage of the front yard.
Along one side of the house, Sheldon converted an unused concrete driveway into a lush tropical passageway to the back yard. Instead of breaking up the slab, she built a raised bed of stacked stone directly atop one section. The remaining narrow expanse of concrete became the path. The former driveway edges are planted heavily, with timbers recycled from the back yard corralling plantings along the side nearest the house. "As you progress down this path, you're going from hot sun to the coolness of the back yard. By the time you get to the back, the air temperature feels as if it has dropped at least 10 degrees," says Sheldon