Lifelong Learning Equals a Glorious Garden

When it comes to gardens, Julie Cobaugh is a life-long learner.

By Lucyann Boston 

Photography by Kim Dillon 


Her education began as a child, helping her mother “who was quite a gardener.” She has gone on to picking up gardening knowledge from every source possible. In the days when the St. Louis Symphony raised money through a Designers Show House, Julie served as the volunteer co-chair of the landscaping committee. “I loved working with all the landscape designers and watching the way they put pots together,” she says. “If I see a clever idea, I’ll write it down.” Those notes end up in Julie’s gardening notebook, "crammed” with years of information on plants, container combinations and gardening tips.

“I know I don’t have a PhD in design,” she continues, “but if you are doing something you love, you learn everywhere. I’m always looking for new ideas. I run around town to so many nurseries. I make it my business to know who has a good price and good quality plants.”

Through the 31 years Julie and her husband, Charlie, have lived in their Ladue home, the garden, on approximately a half acre, has been transformed from a property with invasive shrub honeysuckle to a lush landscape accented with sunny perennial beds, flowering shrubs and verdant shade gardens. At its center, over 40, flower-filled pots, overflowing with bright yellows, dreamy blues, cool whites and occasional shots of pink transform a large brick patio into a floral showcase. Favorite container plants include pale blue, tropical plumbago; trailing blue/purple scaevola; tiny, petunia-like, yellow calibrachoa, and hot pink mandevilla vines.

Julie fills her pots in early spring using regular potting mix, often with a dash of slow-release Osmocote fertilizer thrown in. During the heat of summer, the pots often need to be watered twice a day, with Charlie taking the early morning shift and Julie watering again later in the day.

For Julie, the joy of her garden is in the flowers that fill her life. From the beginning of spring, introduced by flowering witch hazel and the 700 daffodil bulbs that bloom each year, her garden decorates the inside of her house as well as the outside. “I love cutting flowers and bringing them in my home,” she says with a smile.