Purchased in 2004 by local sculptor Deborah Dart and her husband, John, the home at the corner of Cherry Lane and Ohio Place in downtown Sarasota had what she calls “the beginnings of a garden landscape.” The property behind the home, which they acquired two years later, made it possible for her to expand her artistic landscape even further.
“It’s unusual to have this much space downtown,” says Dart about the property, which provides not only plentiful space for entertaining, but also has a patio, swimming pool and a guesthouse.
Dart utilizes the incredible space her backyard offers well.
“We enjoy a lot of outside dining and entertaining,” she says.
The whitewash wood table in the back left corner of the yard sits under a wrought-iron candle chandelier. The chandelier hangs from a rope tied to the laurel and live oak trees that encompass the table. To further enhance the outdoor dining area, outdoor string lights hang between the trees, along with staghorn ferns — one of which they have had since living on Siesta Key five houses ago.
This home, an Old Florida-style lime green structure, has a well-defined tropical theme, and the plants and trees in the crushed-shell yard complement it well.
“We are definitely challenged in creating the tropical look we like with cold-hardy plants,” Dart says.
“Sarasota’s climate is not as mild year-round as many of the tropical varieties need.”
While adhering to their tropical design when choosing plants for the yard, Dart pays particular attention to color and shape.
“Varying the shades of greens, leaf sizes and shapes make a garden far more visually appealing,” she says.
Although Dart doesn’t have a particular method for choosing and planting plants in the yard, the three Australian tree ferns in the front yard are strategically placed — they hide the home’s original front door.
Because the home is historically designated, they had to maintain the original entrance of the home.
“We added a few more of the trees as a way to mask it,” says Dart, because the original entrance is not the entrance they use.
Along with the native plants and colorful flowers that thrive in Dart’s yard, she also favors edible plants. Scattered mainly in the front and side yard are four types of citrus — Meyer lemon, Key lime, Dancy tangerine and navel orange. The Meyer lemon tree located near the front door of the home is currently in full bloom — the other fruits have not turned yet this season. Dart also has an avocado plant, a banana tree and rosemary, and she’s integrated decorative ginger plants in the mix.
In addition to Dart’s landscape being an art in itself, the sculptor also uses her yard as an outside gallery to exhibit her sculptures.
“I’ll place some of my work in the yard for a period of time to add an artistic element,” she says. “Walter — Going Down,” the orange powder-coated aluminum rabbit sculpture, resides near the pool. Walter was previously displayed on the trunk of a tree in the front yard; the tree has since fallen and the trunk has decayed, so Walter’s homebase is now by the pool. The piece is part of a two-part sculpture from Dart’s “Rabbit Series” — the second orange rabbit, “Walter — Coming Up,” is located in the back of the yard, hopping out of a Sarasota city manhole.
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