Made in the Shade

Garden Scene

Photography by Hodges Usry

A Martinez couple built a “pandemic potting shed” themselves to fulfill a vision and to pass the time during quarantine.

In the 13 years that Martinez residents Phyllis and Rob Collier have lived in their Watervale home, they have made several additions to the property. They built a master bedroom downstairs and a detached garage that serves as a workshop for Rob and a gym for Phyllis. They also planted a garden on the side yard.

Despite all of these home improvements, there was still one project that Phyllis, who calls herself and her husband “yard nuts,” always wanted to pursue.

“I’ve always wanted a shed to have a place to keep my gardening supplies and to do my potting,” she says.

The Colliers love to antique, so anytime Phyllis found a treasure at a quaint little shop, she would buy it and save it for future use in the shed. For instance, when she found two long antique shutters, each with a diamond-shaped cutout, she knew they would be part of the shed.

“I had them stored away. Rob knows not to question if I have a vision for something,” she says. “I knew the shed was something I wanted to do eventually.”

Putting in the Work
The time to build the shed finally arrived last March when everyone was quarantined because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Phyllis and Rob, an internal medicine physician at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and a former builder, got to work, and their “Pandemic Potting Shed” started to bloom.

“He drew it and came up with the concept,” says Phyllis. “I told him what I wanted.”

Finishing the project in September, it took them about six months to complete the 8-foot square shed.

“When the weather was nice, we worked on it every day,” Phyllis says.

Rob framed the building, and after his back went out, Phyllis dug the footings.

They used old brick that Phyllis found on Facebook Marketplace for the floor, which they laid themselves. They had the 1-foot-by-6-foot treated pine siding custom-made, and sometimes patience was required to complete their labor of love. They had to wait for the floor to dry after they laid the brick, and it took four months for the specially ordered siding to arrive.

Phyllis found the porch light for the shed at an antique store in Warner Robbins. “It looked like there was no way to reuse it,” she says.

The shed also includes a metal roof and awning windows. Phyllis found the windows and door, which was missing a glass pane, at a local antique shop. She also painted the antique shutters moss green, and they flank either side of the door.

“I wanted everything for the shed to be old,” Phyllis says.

She got strands of grapevine from a friend in Millen who makes grapevine wreaths, and she wrapped the vine around the eaves of the front porch. “I can put lilac in it, or confederate jasmine can grow up into it,” says Phyllis.

The shed is enclosed under a treehouse that the Colliers built for their eight grandchildren several years ago, and the ladder to the treehouse is inside the shed.

“I learned a lot. I had never laid a brick before,” says Phyllis. “We’re avid cross fitters, but I got a good workout when we built the shed.”

‘Winging It’
In the shed, Phyllis keeps lots of clay pots, an old antique bench and indoor plants. Rustic heart pine shelving provides additional storage space, and the shed also has power and running water.

“Sometimes I just go in the shed and hang out,” Phyllis says.

The Colliers have three raised beds in the yard, and they plant annuals and perennials. Phyllis especially loves daffodils and tulips, and she does most of her gardening in the spring and the fall. They grow some vegetables including tomatoes, cucumber and squash as well.

“I’m not a master gardener,” says Phyllis. “I’m just winging it.”

One of these days, the Colliers hope to get to their next project – adding an outdoor living space off of the sunroom. In the meantime, they can enjoy their new potting shed and appreciate the therapeutic qualities the building process had for them.

“I had energy that I couldn’t channel because we couldn’t go anywhere or do anything,” Phyllis says. “It was fun to see the progress and think, ‘Wow! I did that myself.’”

By Sarah James