As a young girl from South Africa’s tropical Miami-like city of Durban, Eugene Cohn grew up amidst colorful, large multicolored flowers and oversized green leafy trees in her family’s backyard garden. Living in that environment, Cohn said she learned to appreciate how outdoor gardens added beauty to her home for which her mother designed the garden plantings and her father’s specialty was growing orchids.
After settling in Atlanta in the 1970s, instead of continuing her career path of being a certified high school English and history teacher, Cohn gravitated toward developing a new business in 1996 planting gardens in large containers for Atlanta clients using flowers, trees and shrubs local to the Georgia climate.
Cohn said she noticed that most Atlanta homeowners wanted beautiful yards that were easy to maintain with colorful and dramatic flowerpots to highlight various parts of their home, whether it be the porch, the entrance, the pool, or as a feature in the yard.
Before working with a client, Cohn spends time asking questions about what kind of look they would enjoy. She told the AJT that questions could be “When you come up your driveway, what would give you pleasure to see?” or “When sitting in your kitchen having a meal and looking out onto your patio/deck, what colors would make you happy? Do you prefer a neat classical style or a more abundant, luxuriant look? Do you prefer clusters of pots or larger, single ones?” The goal is to provide a beautiful view.
Several years ago, Cohn had a very elderly but spritely client who lived in an assisted living high-rise. She could no longer travel the world and longed for a sophisticated and colorful garden on her tiny porch to give herself a beautiful view.
Cohn said a small scale Versailles garden of miniature boxwood hedges, topiary trees and brilliant flowers “gave the woman many years of delight as she sat by her kitchen table looking out onto the burst of color that brought back such happy memories of her trips to France.” Cohn remembered how the client was very proud to have the most beautiful balcony in the building, with the lime green trailing vines being very visible from the parking lot.
Cohn believes that gardens in containers can be easy to maintain even for the beginner gardener. She said it’s very important to use the right size container, large enough so that the plants, trees and flowers can retain enough water through our area’s long hot summers. “Too many people use the wrong size pot or container for their porch flowers.”
According to Cohn, the most expensive purchase is the container itself, followed by the topiary tree, flowers and ivy. She told the AJT that once the container garden is put together, the maintenance need not be difficult.
A tree or small shrub can stay healthy outdoors year-round. The only replacement would be to purchase annuals to plant each season around the base of the tree.
Cohn also recommended planting herbs and cherry tomatoes mixed in with the flowers for added fun. She said that gardening in Atlanta is all about buying the right plants for the amount of sun they will have during the heat of the afternoon.
In her own home, Cohn said she arranged her yard in such a way that from every bedroom there is a specific view and focal point. The view from the kitchen reveals a hint of a hacienda with stucco arches, blue flowerpots, pink and orange flowers, and a rug to match. The focal point, at the back of the yard beyond the pool, is a 6-foot-tall pot that contains plantings of a 10-foot red maple tree and flowers with a semi-circle of boxwood hedges around it. She likes to buy large pots from AW Pottery in Chamblee, which she said makes a wonderful outing.
“Ideally, container gardens should be hooked up to a sprinkler system to take the stress out of watering.” But she understands that’s not always possible.
Affectionately called “The Container Lady” by satisfied clients and friends, Cohn’s newest venture, when she is not busy planting, is taking oil painting lessons. The painting subjects are no surprise: flowers and landscapes, or perhaps replications of favorite gardens she remembers so well from her life in tropical Durban.