When John Bailey decided to purchase his grandparents’ home across the street from Bailey Nurseries’ headquarters after his grandmother passed away in 2009, you might say he was the prototypical bachelor. He’s a hunter—a man of few needs. A natural-born outdoorsman, his hobbies long have been archery, bicycling and gardening; he’s outside in all seasons.
“It’s the only job I’ve ever had,” Bailey says of his work. He’s now the CFO at Bailey Nurseries, the fifth-generation, family-owned nursery and plant-breeding facility based just outside of Woodbury in Newport. The company has in recent decades become best-known for its breeding, including Endless Summer hydrangeas (unique for their long blooms), Easy Elegance roses and First Editions plants.
Prior to acquiring his grandparents’ home, Bailey had been living in another old house on the nursery grounds at Woodbury’s southern border. The house itself, which was originally constructed on a 3-acre plat in 1965, was in need of some renovation, so before moving in, he began the six-month process of remodeling.
If not for the assistance of good friends and interior designers Clair Eisinger and Nancy Bloomo of Woodbury, the Mission-style rambler might not have changed much from its wood paneling, and original mustard and avocado tones. “Before I knew, they knew,” Bailey quips. In fact, the layout of the unassuming 2,500-square-foot house remains unchanged.
Bailey did much of the demolition with a friend. Old countertops were ripped out and replaced with a striking dark granite. The east-facing kitchen looks out onto the patio and the pond feature beyond, bringing in a nice swath of natural light, brightening the bold, maroon-toned walls. Over the kitchen high-top table that seats just four hangs a pulley-overhead light, minimalist in appearance but intricate in design.
The kitchen stands out among other rooms on the main level, which have more of a neutral green tone on the walls offset by bold animal statements—hunting trophies including deer, a black bear hide and pheasant feathers adorn the walls. Buckeye seeds from the tree outside are jarred and used as decoration on the fireplace mantle that anchors the main family room. Other décor includes an original map of the plat of Newport that founder J.V. Bailey purchased back in the 1890s, and an interesting artistic interpretation of a deer, whose antlers branch into trees and flowers, that the daughter of an employee gifted Bailey a few years back.
“The project really just kept evolving,” Bailey says of the decorating and interior design of his home.
“That seems to be the way it is with design,” adds his girlfriend of over four years, Caroline Evans, who is a marketing supervisor at 3M. “It’s like that children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, where the mouse keeps wanting more: Add a couch, then you need a pillow to go on top of it, and a throw to match, and new paint on the walls.”
Throughout the rest of the main level, carpet was replaced with new wood floors. Updates upstairs meant refreshed carpet in the three bedrooms (one of which has been transformed into a music room), and the biggest design challenge of the space, an upstairs bathroom that required some creative rearranging to fit fixtures that include an open-based sink and new tile.
After the initial remodeling of the interior, Bailey moved in; the following year, he updated the siding on the house. But the real gem of this property is the property itself, and Bailey was eager to see what landscaping updates he could bring to the triangular plat that’s literally a walk across the street from his office.
From the street, Bailey’s property almost looks like a well-maintained public green space. The pristine grooming of trees and a massive flower garden at the corner of Bailey and Military roads draws you in and simultaneously allows a place for your eyes to rest in the glory of flowering plants. At its peak in early summer, a rainbow of hydrangeas cascades down the lawn.
Of course, the CFO for Bailey Nurseries uses this prime property with business savvy—perhaps taking a cue from his grandparents, who once invited family and friends to impromptu happy hours on their lawn after a long work week. Today Bailey, too, hosts periodic garden parties on the property, inviting close friends and valued customers right onto the lawn. “There are so many new plants that I get to see how they do in my gardens first,” Bailey says, referring to research the company does with plants from around the globe—and sometimes even new hybrids for the hydrangeas.
The space is bordered by a slew of trees—some more than 60 years old. On the eastern edge of the property, a line of evergreens sets the border at the base of one of the original tree farm terraces that Bailey’s great-grandfather used as a means to tame the hilly countryside and avoid erosion. Along the western edge are smaller trees, including lilac bushes, magnolia trees that bloom pink and white in spring, and one buckeye tree that drops its chestnut-like seeds once a year. And in the center of the space is a unique tree no taller than eight feet, that his grandparents planted years before, a weeping larch, almost a miniature version of a weeping willow, but with tufts of needles in place of leaves.
Each garden has its own theme, and many have some hardscapes—benches or animal statuettes—all anchored by the center water feature, a pond with bubbling fountain that Bailey himself cleans and reimagines each season. The pond has been there for decades, but the paved firepit area that now extends beyond it was constructed with help from another friend, Mike Gross, who specializes in rock movement. It adds an auditory sense to the space already overloading the senses with floral fragrances and the chirping of birds, the buzzing of pollinating bees.
In one corner of the property are the Grandma’s Blessing roses the Bailey family developed and named for the previous owner of the space. In June, Virginia bluebells found growing wild on Bailey family vacation property in Wasioja, Minn., blossom abundantly throughout. “There’s always something blooming here,” Evans says.
In the central garden that surrounds the back two-thirds of the water feature are hostas originally planted by Bailey’s grandmother. Around the outside patio are hydrangea trees, which are exactly what they sound like—small bush-like trees that bloom hydrangeas.
Landscape designer Kent Broom informed the structure of this property. “His ideas were a little more grandiose than mine,” Bailey says, but with clear respect for the design that doesn’t use paper planning but is much more hands-on, grabbing plants and trotting them around the property himself while internally envisioning how the space will come to life.
This property still transforms with the seasons: In spring, the lilacs are fragrant and beautiful. The hydrangeas bloom all summer long, and in fall, the roses are in their prime. Bailey is a fourth-generation grower—four more of his six siblings still work for the family business—so it’s not much surprise that Bailey himself does the gardening maintenance, hauling mulch in the spring, pulling weeds as they sprout, rearranging some of the plants as necessary.
All told, the landscape design took five years to complete, in stages, but as with all living things, it’s constantly evolving.