Date: February 21, 2022 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Rett Peek |
Myranda Grulke uncovers a passion for gardening while renovating a historic property
These days, Myranda Grulke describes gardening as “part of her lifestyle.” But judging from the lush beds of seasonal color and a greenhouse brimming with potted plants, you would never guess she still considers herself a beginner.
This Little Rock local’s love of plants began several years ago when she and her husband, Lamonte, bought their first house: a property in foreclosure that needed a little TLC. “Like any young couple, we wanted to find a home we were comfortable in but also be smart with our money,” Myranda says. “We looked at neighborhoods all over Little Rock and ended up really wanting to put love into downtown.” They happened upon this 1920s cottage in the Central High School Neighborhood Historic District and knew it was the one. “When we started looking at it, we thought, this could be possible!” she says.
While working on the house, the Grulkes were mindful of restoration guidelines that would not only allow them to qualify for helpful tax credits, but also ensure the home remained a “contributing property” to the neighborhood’s status on the National Register of Historic Places. In doing so, they replaced brickwork, matched the existing mortar, and returned the woodwork’s palette to the muted tones of sage green and creamy beige found beneath layers of paint. It was through boosting the home’s curb appeal with beds of elephant ears, rosemary, maiden grass, and gladiolas that Myranda was bitten by the gardening bug.
The next summer, the couple moved their attention to the backyard, which had been in a state of disarray before they purchased the home. Filled with old cars and scrap metal, they spent a lot of time cleaning, clearing, and prepping before Myranda could even undertake plantings; once she got started, the garden took off. “At the time, I was keeping it small because I didn’t know what I was doing,” she says. “It kept growing and growing, then we started looking into irrigation and ways to make it more efficient.”
Room to Grow
Myranda also has a passion for houseplants, which was the driving force behind the addition of a greenhouse to the garden. “I had 10 houseplants before we moved; in the new house, that number multiplied to about a thousand,” she laughs. The structure is pre-built from Arkansas company Yoderbilt, and the couple customized it with a porch, interior lighting, and plumbing to create a true backyard destination.
“Even though I love it, I’m still kind of new at gardening. I’m growing flowers that are beginner-proof yet still rewarding,” Myranda says. The backyard features (clockwise, from top left): ‘Minipuna’ clematis, ‘Commander in Chief’ lilies, ‘Uproar Rose’ zinnias, ‘Break Out’ dahlias, ‘Mister Lincoln’ hybrid tea roses, and ‘Fleurel’ dahlias. These all make great cut flowers for vases and bouquets.
“Gardening is such a giving community. When you grow something, you want to share it.” —Myranda Grulke
While Lamonte had no carpentry experience prior to this house, he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty while figuring it out. Among his projects is the backyard’s above-ground pond, which is home to koi and goldfish as well as floating plants like water lettuce and water hyacinth. A box along the top has ornamental plantings and a water feature. He also built the home’s cedar window boxes.
Home Sweet Hen House
Inspired by a popular Williams-Sonoma style, Lamonte also built a coop in the backyard for Myranda’s chickens. Plantings from Plantopia and Lumber One Home Center bring color and texture to its surroundings.