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Tennis court turned into delicious, soothing gardens: Suzanne Novak and Bill Nemeth

These days Suzanne Novak and Bill Nemeth volley tips about their orchard or the vegetables and roses in raised limestone beds. But when they bought their house above wild basin in the 90s, this was all a regulation tennis court. – We don’t play tennis. Our dogs played on it, and our daughter learned how to ride her bicycle on it, and that was pretty much it, and when she went off to college we started a remodel of the house, and the last thing was what to do with the yard. – Enter Landscape Architect Tate Waring. – I can remember exactly where we were sitting, and it was like, “Well what can we have instead?” and he said, “Well you can have a fruit orchard”. And I’m like, “Yes”. And didn’t you say – you’re from Oregon, you know, yes, we want – we want that.
– Sure, so my grandmother had every type of fruit tree you can imagine in Oregon: cherries, pears, all kinds of pears, apples, all kinds of apples, all kinds of berries. We just wanted to do what we thought we might be able to do here, so. And it’s – it’s worked out pretty well. We took everything out, all of the surfacing of the court and all of the material underneath it, the gravel, and all that was taken, out and then we brought in – it was 18 to 20 inches of soil on top of the rock.
– And then we have the raised beds. – Our roses and our vegetable beds are raised so that we can get to them easier. Tate patterned the limestone beds over pea gravel that’s easy to navigate and fends off a weeding nightmare. – We’ve always had gardens and –
wherever we’ve been, and I grew up you know with the family that gardened and I just – I wanted to do it for entertainment and fun. Easy-care roses dot color and fragrance among year-round food crops.
– I don’t think in the winter we ever buy a vegetable. – Renee also cans, pickles, and freezes to enjoy organic fresh taste out of season. – Beets do really well up here, I don’t know why, and the carrots. I had one carrot that was two feet long. – We have artichokes, asparagus has not been our good crop.
– No, I can’t get the asparagus to cooperate.
– Tomatoes, we freeze tomatoes every year.
– Tate installed French strains to control flooding rainwater from the street uphill. For a break in the shade, Tate designed a rustic cedar Ramada. Formal lines magnify the uncluttered serenity while working the garden or simply enjoying the view. A bonus vantage point is the view of Wild Basin, which has improved since they removed invasives and trimmed the trees.
– Now it’s just gorgeous, and I mean people do just sit here and look out.
– Perimeter fencing keeps out deer that would certainly wipe out the blackberries. All winter we have cobbler.
– Fences on both sides of the orchard support Spanish black grapes. – This is maybe an experiment for everyone. – There’s a lot of grapes.
– And they’re beautiful.
– From the orchard, planted underfoot with soya grass, they harvest peaches, apples, figs, and pears. At least, usually.
– You know the weather is such a big thing here in terms of how it’s going to feed into which crop we get of what, but for example, this year we have apples, but we didn’t have enough cooling nights, so we didn’t get any peaches. I think I’ve got three pizzas out there that I found. Birds are a problem unless we cover like the peaches or whatever or the grapes. The birds get in, and so we we have all kinds of rubber snakes and owls and things like that, but we also feed the birds, don’t we?
– Yeah, and the squirrels.
– And the squirrels. Two years ago we did net the peach trees and the pear trees to keep the fruit. If we have a really good fruit crop, we probably would. And you have to prune them annually too. Kind of give them a flat top, and I don’t think we took them down as much this year. If you go up to Fredericksburg and look at all of the orchards there, they’re all – they trim them down on an annual basis, and the trees are actually not that large.
– For a nitrogen boost on fruit trees, roses, and vegetables, some years Bill douses everything with turkey compost.
– And then, you know, we usually mulch, too, and I’ve used different combinations of mulches and compost, and I have my own compost pile that I use too. – A stream and pond is a quiet place to reflect after a busy day at work or in the garden.
– It was just a great addition. – So this was part of a major redo of the house to open the house up to the outside. There was no view except through the glass doors walking out of the house to even see was part of the art, but the way it’s been incorporated now this is a – this brings the outside completely inside of that part of the house.
– That’s why this fits in so well because it’s part of – when you sit in the back of the house inside, you’re looking out at all of this, so it’s really nice the way it comes together. – It is lovely, very peaceful.
– You can sit up here and hear even when it’s not windy. – And from inside the house through the screen door. As physicians who heal others, Suzanne and Bill heed advice from their friend Jack Stovall in San Marcos.
– I remember him saying something to me once. I work out of this house, and he said, “All you do is work and come home here, so you should have a space that’s peaceful and wonderful that you come home to, and this is what” – and I just never forget it. I was kind of quibbling all the way back in San Marcos 30 years ago about spending some money on the yard, and he said, “Oh my god this is all you do is work and come home, so have a beautiful place to come home to”. And I just carried that with me.

David Frank



  1. Stacie L Posted on May 11, 2017 at 12:01 am

    Fabulous! What a dream garden and with such style.

  2. deezie Posted on May 11, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Such a beautiful yard and garden, love it***

  3. Blue Cheeze Posted on May 21, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    I would of kept the court