FeaturesInside OutOutdoor Living


By Debbie AndersonApril 28, 2020No Comments

Balance and Beauty

By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ralph Lauer

This Japanese-inspired landscape soothes the mind and spirit.

If Jennifer Ridley could use only one word to describe her Fort Worth home inside and out, it would be “Zen.” It starts with the front yard, where a sea of ornamental grasses waves in the breeze. The shaglike zoysia turf grass beckons bare feet. Carefully placed ornamental rocks complement the mottled brown-blue colors of the home’s brick facing. Japanese maples punctuate the landscape with color. The copper rain chains are as functional as they are beautiful. A pair of foo dogs, a housewarming gift from friends, stoically guard the entrance.

Common elements in Japanese garden design are boulders that symbolize mountains. Japanese painted ferns soften the hardscape.

Everest, a Japanese sedge grass, is planted in symmetrical rows in the front yard. It’s evergreen, low maintenance and cold-hardy. Japanese maples provide a bold dash of color.

Ridley shares this tranquil environment in Fort Worth’s wooded Crestwood neighborhood with husband Brian Bouffard. He is a criminal and military defense attorney who formerly served as a lawyer in the Navy JAG Corps. Ridley is a chiropractor specializing in functional medicine and nutrition. These days, she puts in long hours at her private practice, helping first responders, medical personnel and others who are working tirelessly. “Our office has a new special HVAC system to ensure a sanitary environment, and we’re cleaning routinely between patients.”

Home is the couple’s sanctuary, whether it’s the screened porch in the back or the cozy patio just off Bouffard’s office at the front of the house. The new home and landscape are the result of a long search for a place that suited their needs. “We were having trouble finding something with a mother-in-law room,” says Ridley, who wanted her 75-year-old mom, Patricia Hayton, to move from Grand Prairie to live with them. “The house on this lot was built in 1910. Unfortunately, it had numerous additions over the years. We would have loved to have saved it, but there were too many issues.”

In the backyard, the rock garden features a flagstone path that leads to beds filled with perennials, many planted to attract bees and other pollinators. Bonsai and ground cover break up the sea of gravel along the way.

Moneywort, sedum, ajuga and ferns cover strategically placed mounds in the backyard’s rock garden. They represent islands; the boulders are the mountains. Novak used schist metamorphic rock, which contains layers of crystallized minerals.

The couple cleared the lot (and saved most of the trees), and then put pen to paper. They designed their dream home after doing much research on ADA compliance. “Brian and I have been to Japan numerous times and were inspired by the design there. We wanted a soft modern feeling inside and out,” says Ridley. For the house’s exterior, they found a Fort Worth-made brick that determined the color scheme, which also includes Sherwin-Williams Still Water and Moody Blue for the siding. “We went through about 50 samples and painted siding scraps to find the right color.”

After finding an architect to draw the plans and a builder to execute them, they moved in last August, five years after purchasing the lot. And as Ridley and her mother are both avid gardeners, the landscape got equal thought and care. “I had put a design down on paper and was trying to find one that shared my vision. I found D&I Landscape and Construction through Metro Maples; the owner recommended Inman Novak. He likes a clean, modern design, and he understands that I wanted everything to be organic,” says Ridley.

The variegated tones of the rocks complement the blues and browns of the Chambers brick on the house.

A perfect white iris survived being transplanted from its original home in Dallas

Functional construction came first, as drainage was an issue. Novak added French drains, as well as low retaining walls in the back and front. At street level, beds of contrasting white and basalt gravel edged in steel absorb water and add curb appeal. Custom concrete pavers form a walkway from the street to the entryway and to the driveway. The zoysia and ornamental grasses thrive in the shaded front yard and are low maintenance, both requests high on the homeowners’ list. There is also the occasional bonsai, along with ground covers planted in the gravel paths, a nod to the design principle of giving the garden a feeling of old and new.

The homeowners opted to cover the Japanese rock garden in the backyard. The house opens up via screened walls that come in handy during mosquito season. “We were thinking about putting a spa back here, but we love it as is,” says Ridley. In a nod to traditional Japanese gardens, Novak used plant-covered berms to create “islands” and boulders to serve as mountains. A glass orb, small boulder and plant set into the white gravel form a dragon. The beauty is in the subtlety of the design.

Zoysia grass is native to Asia. It’s considered a warm-season grass and peaks during the hot weather. We photographed it last summer, above. It’s not as green nor as dense in the spring, as shown in the photo to the right.

Landscaper Inman Novak used a mix of white and basalt gravel, both of which complement the concrete retaining wall. The spiky-leafed cycads love shade and can grow to more than 6 feet tall. Novak says he tries to mix in a few unusual plants in every project.

The backyard also includes vegetable and pollinator gardens filled with plants, including irises and peonies brought to Fort Worth by Ridley’s mother. “She’s the one with the really green thumb; we’ve been doing composting since I was a little girl.” A comforting calm surrounds the home. “We sit on the patio in the front or the back and have dinner and wave at the neighbors as they walk by,” says Ridley. “It’s such a welcoming place.”


Builder Ravenna Group, Arlington

Brick Chambers Brick Sales, Fort Worth, chambersbricksales.com

Landscape design D&I Landscape and Construction, dilandscape.com

Bonsai and trees Metro Maples, metromaples.com Cycads North Texas Cold Hardy Palms, texascoldhardypalms.com

Hardscape Whiz-Q Stone, whiz-q.com