Building a Romantic Garden Folly

Appearing in the 18th-century estate gardens of European aristocrats, an architectural structure known as a folly became all the rage. Typically in the form of a ruined castle, church, or temple, these had no function other than to add romance to the landscape. They are permanent structures in masonry, not cheap to build, which serve no purpose: hence the nomenclature.

The homeowners were faced with a backyard that resisted a picturesque backdrop, despite their planting efforts. (See previous story.) Turner and Pherber hired local stonemasons to fabricate “the back wall of a ruined chapel.”  While the folly appears to be dry-stacked stone, the central columns and rear buttresses are mortared to ensure stability. 

Follies are typically named for the estate or for its owner but Turner and   Pherber have named their folly “Buddy.” (Go ahead, say it out loud.)

historic garden folly
The rear side of the stone “ruin” holds a seating area. Overlooking garden beds and this folly, a bench swing hangs on the house’s pergola-covered rear deck.
historic garden folly
The bedroom’s conservatory has a view of the folly, seen here before glass was installed.
garden folly in snow
Backlighting the stained glass creates moody interest in every season.

Stained glass, from a decommissioned Armenian church in Upstate New York, was rebuilt and placed within the stone arches.  Fountains sit in front of as well as behind the structure. The morning sun sets the glass ablaze in opalescent glory; in the afternoon, sunset creates a glow over the rear seating area. At night, the stained glass is backlit to make it visible from the house and deck. 

Surrounding gardens frame the narrow,  quarter-acre lot that has little room for side plantings. Instead, the couple built a delicate, long pergola over the new deck that runs alongside  the kitchen. At the rear of the house, this level steps down to a larger deck covered by a more substantial pergola. 

Tags: OHJ August 2023

Product of the Week

© Copyright 2023 Home Group, a division of Active Interest Media. All Rights Reserved.

2143 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50312