Call Jim Coile (Part 1)
When my wife Yvonne and I moved from L.A. to Nashville years ago, we bought a house that was perched on a hill, with a front yard sloping down to the street and a back yard sloping up and covered with trees.
We did some remodeling of the house with the help of a contractor named Hilton Wickham. One day we asked Hilton what we should do to landscape the front and back yards.
“Call Jim Coile,” he said without hesitation.
Jim Coile, he explained, was the best landscape architect he knew. There was one unusual thing about him: he worked for the Southern Baptist Convention, which was headquartered in Nashville. Jim’s day job was landscaping churches across the country. Luckily for us, he sometimes took on small jobs outside of work.
We met with Jim, a friendly, grandfatherly man, and showed him the property. He asked what we had in mind, and we said we wanted the house to be welcoming, and we liked to entertain groups of friends. He nodded, thoughtful, and took some measurements.
A few weeks later, he came back and unrolled a set of architectural plans, drawn in meticulous detail with plantings indicated and named. The drawings were works of art.
They showed a graceful, winding front walk leading to stately brick stairs and wooden railings at the door. In back, he had designed two big, overlapping decks between the house and the woods, accented by a lovely wooden arbor and bordered by low limestone walls that were capped with brick.
We gaped at the drawings and asked, timidly, how much the designs would cost. He shrugged and told us he charged by the hour, and he had eight or ten hours into the project. His hourly rate, it turned out, was incredibly low, what we might pay for lawn work or, for godsake, pest control. We said yes!
Four months later, Hilton Wickham’s crew finished installing Jim’s plan, the last piece of the puzzle for our house.
Not long after that, we threw a party for our new Nashville friends to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that some of them had never heard of and that one pronounced mayo, as in mayonnaise. The group spread out on the two decks. Later, our daughter Maggie enjoyed the flowers.
The party was a success, and in fact we repeated it every May for a number of years. Each time, Yvonne and I would silently raise a glass to Jim Coile, who made it all possible.