A Landscape of Love

As you enter the pine tree-lined drive, you feel a slight rumble as your tires roll across the original 1950s cattle gate. It’s a subtle reminder to all who come and go that this family property was once a host to cattle and horses.

Ken MacKay’s maternal grandparents, Jub and Francis Selph, grew almost every known variety of Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica on this acreage. Many of the 50-year-old specimens have been carefully relocated to modernize the landscape and give room for the much needed addition to the home.

Thus, the wheels were set into motion for Cindy Cleary MacKay to design a landscape that would allow for the additional living area, meet her family’s recreational needs, and maintain the integrity of the family home.

Cindy Cleary MacKay relaxes in her garden with her two canine companions.


“I’m a sucker for nostalgia,” Cindy laughingly admits.

She designed the new addition around two clumps of magnificently branched Pindo Palms and two Canary Island Date Palms.

When she sits at her new office desk and looks to the north, Cindy is inspired by the shade garden under the 55-year-old palm canopy. Variegated shell ginger that is blooming for the first time shields the front entrance. But with a few steps into the oasis you’ll find a specimen camellia, the broad, rich blades of the Cast Iron plant, split-leaf philodendron, and other shade-lovers. Cindy has loaded up the area with multi-colored impatiens with the hope that they will “go wild” and re-seed every bare square inch. Even some Rex Begonias grown by her mother-in-law, Anne MacKay, sprinkle the garden floor.

An abundance of flowering plants add color and texture to the MacKay garden.
A water feature is the perfect way to add architectural detailing to a garden space.


Still seated at her desk, Cindy looks to the south to view a sunny tropical oasis. This mini garden, nestled between the game room exterior wall and a window-lined hallway, is a positive reminder that constraints can be turned into assets.

“Jerry Stephens helped me see this area’s potential,” adds Cindy.

Lush greenery and vibrant blooms make for a welcome retreat at the MacKays’ home.


First, your eye is drawn to a gracefully arched Australian Tree Fern. In contrast, the broad leaves of the 15-foot Bird of Paradise shouts for attention. Adding more interest, the contained water fountain adds a cooling and refreshing component to this protected “hot spot.”

An active lifestyle demands a sturdy landscape. Mac, Ted, and Lilli MacKay haphazardly appreciate the landscape their mom has transformed. In reality, they seem to be more energized by the newly created open spaces that allow them to play football, soccer, or volleyball in their own backyard. If a misdirected soccer ball lands in the flower bed, Cindy just shrugs it off. A home and a landscape are meant to be enjoyed by children and Labrador retrievers.

One of Cindy’s personal goals was to showcase several styles of gardens. Through the French doors of the game room, you’re drawn into a cozy English garden space.

The “old Chicago” brick patio is surrounded by ‘Natchez’ Crapemyrtles, red Knock Out roses, and four uniform Feijoa trees.

The worn-looking brick fountain lends a nostalgic look to the MacKay garden.


“As the boxwood hedge grows together, this area will feel even more intimate,” Cindy says.

An herb garden is nestled just outside the kitchen door. Butterflies frequent their designated area, but inhabit the entire landscape, too. Each garden space in the MacKay’s landscape is intriguing and has a unique personality.

A mixture of old and new makes this landscape low maintenance while also providing seasonal color with a variety of blooming plant material.

Cindy says it best.

“Just like a pearl necklace ties together the whole outfit, the Oak trees, the camellias, and the old brick of this home tie together our surroundings,” she says.

The neatly maintained garden features a variety of
shrubs, annuals, and perennials.

Posted in Ocala Style Features

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