Metro-East Living

New Orleans native brings hometown to Collinsville backyard

Cindy Harper wanted a new border for her herb garden.

But the crumbling front and sidewalks needed to be fixed, too. And the deck needed repair, and a fireplace would be nice on chilly evenings for parties, and what about a zen garden...

Three weeks later, including planting days, Cindy and her husband, Eric Hofmeister, had a large patio and a bit of Louisiana in their Collinsville backyard as a nod to his hometown of New Orleans. Work with the Navy took Eric all over before landing here; Cindy is from Collinsville. After this garden expansion, they have no plans to ever leave.

Cindy’s dad, Jim Cange, built the deck, and Eric proudly assembled the fireplace, but just about everything else they credit to Edgar Banuelos, of Dreamscapes Outdoor Services in Collinsville.

“We actually started small,” Edgar said of the couple’s initial request and ideas for a backyard with more privacy and intimacy. “More plans, more details; it just kept growing.”

We actually started small. More plans, more details; it just kept growing.

Eric Hofmeister on his backyard patio expansion

It grew to an expansive outdoor space. The fireplace is flanked by fountains with water spouting from Green Men faces made of stone with leaves and greenery around them. The fireplace has the face of Bacchus, the God of Wine, which Cindy thought appropriate.

The couple are “big Saints fans” and enjoy throwing parties.

“Every weekend we have a couple to a dozen (friends over) for football parties, dinner parties, parties-for-no-reason parties,” said Cindy, a portfolio manager with U.S. Bank.

There are walls of stone and wrought-iron edging the patio, which has a geometric pattern for the main part and a semicircle of stonework drawing attention to the fireplace and fountains. There’s a raised ring around an existing tree, with monkey grass and hostas that will grow in a stair-step pattern, Edgar said.

“The Zen area caused us fits,” Cindy said.

The difference in the grade from one side of the house to the other wasn’t an issue in the early designs, but became clear as the size of the patio expanded to accommodate all the couple’s ideas. Eric said the high side of the patio is 2 1/2 feet above the level patio; the low side with the Zen garden is 2 1/2 feet below.

Cindy and Eric said the project still came in at the budget of $25,000, including the deck materials and added fencing.

“It’s right on budget with Edgar; no surprises,” said Eric, a contractor for U.S. Department of Defense.

Part of that, Edgar said, is how his crew works. Once an area has reached the end of what can be done that day, the crew moves to another area. That’s how they easily were able to accommodate Jim building the deck and Eric building the Romanstone fireplace.

“When they were over there, I was here,” Eric said. “They say on the website ‘Two guys, one day’” to build the fireplace that he tackled solo.”

“One guy took a week,” Cindy said.

Eric also dug trenches for the utilities, to run the water and gas line to the fountains and fireplace.

“I did not do that,” Cindy said. “I said, ‘Oh! I like it!’”

The backyard isn’t complete quite yet, but the couple is already planning get-togethers. They expect later to replace sliding doors from the house with French doors and perhaps shutters, to add to the New Orleans feel.

As eager as Cindy was for colorful flowers to further embrace the New Orleans vibe, Edgar suggested a backdrop of greenery instead. The back area has a lace leaf Japanese maple, emerald green arborvitae, rose of Sharon and azaleas. In the front are nandina, azaleas, rhododendrons and hostas.

In the spring, they’ll call Edgar back to put colorful flowers — likely pansies or petunias, something that hangs over, he said — in the copper-lined flower boxes built into the fountains. All the plants are from Jerry’s Nursery in Breese.

“He exceeded our goals,” Eric said.

With all that was done, the couple still sees additions. Eric is talking of a screen for the trash cans to the side of the house, perhaps with a water feature.

And that herb garden with the messy border that started the project?

The upgrade gave Cindy more space for herbs.

Right now, the area is covered in a black-dyed hardwood mulch with a large pot atop a flat rock. Edgar will be back in the winter to build seven raised beds around the potted plant.