Keeping Up With the Joneses
An East Memphis garden offers a lovely way to beat the heat.
The pool house with its Southern “low country” architecture, long green shutters, and vintage wicker makes for a shady retreat from summer sun.
photography by Andrea Zucker
Everything heats up in Memphis in July. Fortunately for Sandra and Jack Jones, when it gets too hot, they — along with many family members and friends — can retreat out back for a dip in their saltwater pool, and later cool off in the garden’s pool house, greenhouse, air-conditioned guesthouse, or in one of several shady loggias.
A formal, architectural quality embraces this East Memphis garden, which was designed by Sandra Jones, with implementation done by Karen Davenport of Kaja Farms. It is a carefully considered landscape offering a variety of picturesque vignettes at every turn. Sandra’s plan is to have her garden look basically the same in winter and summer, and accordingly it is landscaped with plants that stay green — including boxwoods, camellias, and azaleas. Then, as the seasons dictate, New Dawn roses, hydrangeas, and peonies burst into colorful bloom and are added to the mix. Many “old friends” can be found in the garden, too, such as the Florida gardenia trees that traveled with Sandra from her former Morningside Park home.
Dotted throughout the Joneses’ garden are lovely, old-world marble statues, urns, iron gates, and salvaged industrial remnants, all of which have the patina of age. These vintage finds have been handpicked by Sandra from estate sales in Memphis, as well as from auctions and sales all around the world. They add character to the glimpses of green which can be seen from every window in the main house and outbuildings.
The swimming pool is five feet deep and was designed by Ogden Pools. Christie Cut Stone Co. installed the limestone hardscape. The spacious, comfortable pool house has a Southern “low country” look and is furnished with a wicker seating set that Sandra bought from a stately home on Central Avenue. The cast-iron column capitals came courtesy of an old building in New York City. With its floor-to-ceiling glass tiles, the bathroom in the pool house has a cool, grotto-like feel. The flower-sprigged, painted porcelain sink set into a handsome piece of furniture was purchased at a Tom Fortner estate sale. The luxurious faucets are by Phylrich.
A niece in Florida says jokingly that the buildings in the garden look a bit “like Universal City’ with their different architectural styles, but it all comes together beautifully in Sandra’s eclectic vision. The brick greenhouse/guesthouse is Georgian in style, with porthole windows and interior columns. The visitor steps first into the glass-roofed greenhouse portion with its four rubber trees (hardy survivors from Sandra’s past gardens), frangipani (Plumeria), and oceans of orchids.
Sandra tells me her brother, Steve Eaton, has “the green thumb of the century” and helps to bring plants back to life when the Joneses’ friends “try to kill them off.” By way of explanation, Sandra says she gave out 150 orchids as presents last Christmas and jokes, “We have a little orchid hospital going here.” The gigantic ceiling fan in the greenhouse comes courtesy of Big Ass Fan Company (yes, that is its name). All of the lighting installations are from Montgomery Lighting.
When the guesthouse was first built, it consisted of one large bedroom and bath. It soon became apparent, however, that the space was too small to accommodate visiting family members such as Jack’s granddaughter, singer/songwriter Caroline Jones, who comes to Memphis once a year to perform and host classes for local students. The family soon decided to add a large living room and another bath. The living room is a decorative mix with horn chairs, painted furniture, an oriental rug, and accents such as an antique Russian copper samovar. In keeping with the botanical theme, the décor in the bedroom features a tree-root headboard and an old garden gate on the wall. The floors throughout are dyed concrete.
It was good fortune that I first got a glimpse of the Joneses’ beautiful garden when Sandra invited me to a showing in the greenhouse of Keith Ellis Prest jewelry. Keith Ellis is her business-savvy teenaged great-niece, who launched a jewelry line called “Keith E Jewels” late last year. This talented St. Mary’s student makes everything by hand; you can find out more about her lovely pearl jewelry on Twitter @keithejewels.
I would also like to add how grateful I am to Jack and Sandra Jones for graciously agreeing to our photo shoot at an extraordinarily busy time for them. They were literally on the eve of their departure for Jack’s 65th reunion at the University of Virginia law school and afterwards for the Robin Hood Foundation’s 25th anniversary gala in New York City. Most Memphians already know by now that this incredible philanthropic organization was founded by Jack’s son, Paul Tudor Jones, to help needy New Yorkers build better lives.
Maybe next time, if we play our cards right, Sandra and Jack will kindly let us photograph the inside of their house. Sandra can guide us through some of her many collections, which have moved with her over the years from one home to another. You may like to know that the Jones home has a “safari room.” If this sounds intriguing, stay tuned!
Anne Cunningham O’Neill is the arts & lifestyle editor of Memphis magazine.