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Now and Zen – Winston

Bill Flynn and his wife, Dawn, were looking for a house they could move into with Bill’s mother, Jean. That’s when they stumbled upon the midcentury ranch of a former dentist. Built in 1961, the home was originally designed with a separate wing for a dental office. The unique floor plan suited the Flynns perfectly.

After remodeling the office into an efficiency apartment for his mother, he turned his attention to the landscape just outside his mother’s window and began planting an English cottage garden. Creative by nature, Flynn discovered a new passion and outlet for his artistic proclivities in gardening. It wasn’t long before he became obsessed with garden design. “If there was a garden around, I wanted to go see it.”

That’s when Flynn discovered the work of John Newman, a former WFU law school graduate and local attorney turned garden designer. “I went to look at all his jobs,” Flynn recalls, “and I remember thinking, ‘There’s someone who knows what he’s doing.’”

Raised in the nearby town of Albemarle, Newman was introduced to gardening at a young age by his grandmother. He fondly recalls taking family trips to the Uwharrie Mountains and reveling in the natural beauty of the North Carolina Piedmont.

Years later as an adult, Newman visited the Japanese garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and bought a small book about Japanese gardening. He found himself immediately drawn to its design principles.

With the book providing inspiration, Newman decided to combine his lifelong love of plants with a renewed focus on design and become a professional garden designer. Now, with more than 20 years of professional experience, Newman operates with a primary goal of “bringing nature closer to people. My objective is to connect architecture with the larger environment and to integrate interior and exterior space in seamless transition.”

For Newman, working with a client like Flynn became a true collaboration. “It’s easy when you’re on the same page with someone,” Newman says. “He’s the best garden keeper in the world.”

Flynn’s penchant for all-things Asian was already a part of the home’s décor, so it was only a matter of time before that passion for the East made its way outdoors. He relocated a row of azaleas that once stood at his front door and placed them strategically in beds around the house. Each azalea was pruned to showcase the plant’s structure in a style that mimicked the art of bonsai. He also designed new stylized copper downspouts at the corners of the house which were once hidden. As one passerby put it: “This ain’t no Southern house.”

It was true, especially after Newman came in and worked his magic. The abstract and stylized ways he used exotic plants and stone not only complemented the home’s midcentury design, they distinguished it as well. “Stones are always present in my work,” Newman says. “Stepping stones, walls, borders, and landscape boulders.”

Out back, a stone planter features the work of one of Newman’s understudies, Ian Byers. After a day spent handpicking stones in Stokes County, Byers created a series of miniature compositions using groups of three rocks. Each featured one tall vertical rock with two smaller ones flanking it—a design that represents Buddha and his two attendants. “Each composition can be photographed by itself,” Newman says. “They can stand alone.”

These days, the Flynns’ home and gardens remain a work in progress, ever evolving. While the exterior of the house promotes meditation and contemplation, the interior of the home remains a veritable time capsule, immaculate and pristine in its own way.

With spring slowly settling in, Flynn is content to sit and watch his garden grow. After all, natural beauty like this is meant to be enjoyed.

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