All the Buzz: Behind the pool, a bed of pollinator plants—including giant coneflowers, crinum lilies, and bee balm—curves beneath ’Little Gem’ magnolia trees.
The backyard was once a forest of bamboo that Susan and David Epstein spent two years clearing.
Through the Years: The Epsteins’ home was built in 1934 on former strawberry fields along Old Towne Road in West Ashley.
Susan and David purchased it in 1994 and have since added a pool, lush garden rooms, and inviting pathways to the nearly two-acre property.
Splash Pad: In 1996, landscape designer Thomas Angell helped site a pool just off the back of the house, where the Epsteins had already added an expansive porch.
Room to Relax: Today, the pool area feels like a secluded retreat. Hedges provide crisp outlines to less-formal plantings, such as the tractor-seat plants and ferns in the butterfly-shaped parterres linking this scenic play space to the house.
Porch Life: The Epsteins eventually expanded their kitchen onto part of the porch, adding walls of windows to maximize views of the garden. There’s still ample space for seating and potted plants beneath the pergola draped in star jasmine.
GUIDING VIEWS: A curving bed with liriope, irises, bletilla, hydrangeas, and boxwood—all punctuated by a young longleaf pine—leads to a dramatic holly-tree threshold. A fountain splashes in the intimate garden room beyond, drawing visitors through to the backyard.
DOORWAYS & DESTINATIONS: A collection of clivias on the porch bloom in shades of orange and yellow during the spring.
Moss-covered steps lead from the kitchen down to the back patio.
By the guest house, a potted desert spoon brings spiky texture to a bed featuring hydrangeas and mahonias.
A stone pathway—framed by ‘Daruma’ loropetalum and hibiscus on one side, ‘Florida Sunshine’ ligustrum and podocarpus on the other—lures pool-goers deeper into the garden.
Crocosmia blooms around the fountain amid daylilies and liriope.
Susan has focused on adding more natives to her garden in recent years, including purple coneflowers—beloved by bees, butterflies, and songbirds.
Ajuga spreads beneath a hosta, which needs excellent drainage to thrive in the Lowcountry, says Susan, who adds Permatill to the soil.
Susan appreciates the evergreen ‘Empress of China‘ dogwood for its ability to bloom through most of June.
Various ferns join lamium to create a lush vignette in patio containers.
Variegated aspidistra and edgeworthia mingle around a birdbath.
Stokes aster is a favorite native perennial.
“I use lawn as area rugs,“ says Susan, who is always working to slice out grass in favor of more varied—and more beneficial—plantings.
WISE CHOICE: Susan wanted a bit of elevation change and was concerned about flooding, so Angell designed a hill that features a swale to catch excess rainwater. At the top, Susan used mondo grass to form the shape of a nautilus—a marine mollusk associated with the growth of personal knowledge.
SHARING HER PASSION: Though mostly retired, Susan teaches an annual Charleston Horticultural Society course called Journey Through Lowcountry Horticulture and leads private garden tours for that nonprofit, as well as for the Preservation Society of Charleston.