The Ray Garden
By Lisa Stephens Rahn • Photography by Brian W. McDonald
It’s taken Joan and Steve Ray more than two decades to sculpt their Enterprise, Alabama, property into what it is today. “It was kind of like a dream and vision we’ve had our whole married life,” Steve tells. That dream sprang forth in the form of a sketch Steve drew on a napkin. “I don’t have the artistic mind he does,” Joan says. “He can envision how he wants it to look.”
Years of visiting area outdoor destinations had resulted in a clear sense of what the Rays desired for their own land. “That’s what we do when we travel is look at other people’s gardens,” Joan says. “We went to Callaway back in the mid-80s and we loved it,” Steve tells. “So, this is a mini Callaway.”
Originally from Missouri, this is the couple’s 17th home in 47 years. All the moving was, in part, due to the 21 years Steve spent in the Air Force. For the following 20 years, he worked in financial services, moving to Enterprise from Montgomery, Alabama, in 1994. “When I drove in here with the realtor, I said, ‘Unless it’s a wreck, I want it,’” Steve tells. “We bought the home more for the yard.”
And while the Rays were pleased with their purchase, they had a lot of work ahead of them to bring the space up to their standards. The lot was slopped and muddy and covered with vines and brush. “It was literally overgrown thickets,” Steve remembers.
They called on Gary Davis with Davis Landscaping to bring in 53 truckloads of fill dirt and topsoil as the antidote to the yard plagued by erosion. The team added a landscaping wall to help prevent further soil loss on the lower trace, cleared undesirable growth and leveled pathways.
The Rays gave Davis a list of plants they liked, and he brought their vision to life, from hardscapes like the bridges that cross the streams to the softer look of ornamental plants. “It’s been an ongoing process since then,” Steve says.
Through the years, they’ve played with landscaping techniques, but with the help of Trawick Gardens and Landscapes, settled on a more natural style. “We like formal appearances wherever we go—the botanical gardens or zoo,” Steve asserts. “We like formal gardens, but it’s not us.”
Pink and red ruffle azaleas meet guests at the entrance of the garden, foreshadowing the landscape that is to follow. About 200 azaleas of different varieties seem to flow endlessly across the upper and lower traces, where living trails of moss and dwarf mondo grass meander. Pathways wind throughout the two acres, and include numerous [subscribe to read full article and see more photos]