As James A. McCarty Jr., or “J.T.” as he’s more commonly called, sits in the backyard of his Newburgh, Indiana, home on a late summer day, flowers, trees, and shrubs surround him. McCarty points out each describing the perfect recipe of sunlight and water care. It’s this kind of knowledge McCarty has acquired through his business, Colonial Classics Landscape & Nursery, and brings to his own home.
“I bring plants home and try them in my own yard, and if they do work, I feel more comfortable about recommending them to my clients,” says McCarty, who has lived in the 1998-built ranch home with a bonus room over the garage for the last six years. His father Jim McCarty Sr. began Colonial Garden Center in 1958, which later evolved into Colonial Classics, and J.T. took over in 1990.
“It allows me to speak confidently about the plants we’re selling,” says the Purdue University alumnus and past president of Garden Centers of Americas, who adopts these “orphaned plants.” Perhaps a basket of flowers came back or previously was damaged or neglected, or it’s a new species being tested out; they find a home at his “oasis in the middle of downtown Newburgh” and McCarty can later provide first-hand insight to his clients.
Over the years, Colonial Classics, located at 3633 Epworth Road, has evolved from a very popular retail business to services, offering landscape maintenance, design, and building and irrigation installation and service. Colonial Classics also locally owns and operates a franchise of Weed Man Lawn Care Service, known for weed and insect control, and fertilization. Weed Man is North America’s fastest growing independent lawn care company.
Having a landscaped backyard, which McCarty calls “an extension of the house itself,” allows for him to take that familiarity of design, supplies, equipment, and drainage to his clients. The 3,300-square-foot home has French doors that open from the living room to a Pennsylvania blue slate outdoor seating area under a canopy, overlooking the spacious backyard. The slate was laid over exposed aggregate in an ashlar pattern. The patio is bordered with soldier course. Because McCarty treats his space with environmentally friendly insect control and has low-voltage outdoor lighting, he and his wife Julie often leave the French doors open to easily go in and out of the house. The master bedroom steps out to a hot tub.
While J.T. seeks to constantly improve the exterior of the home, it’s Julie, an avid fan of HGTV, who is responsible for the improvements to the interior. Prior to moving into the Newburgh home six years ago, J.T. says he and Julie “gutted the entire first floor of the home — the dining room, living room, master bedroom, and kitchen.” The renovation process involved tearing out walls and “making things much more open.”
The emphasis on the outdoor space and renovations the McCartys made to the inside of the home have “changed the whole traffic pattern of the home.” The backyard has several quiet sitting areas, fountains, a waterfall, stone elements, and appropriately-placed landscape lighting. The outdoor furniture all came from Colonial Classics.
J.T. calls a landscaped backyard “a continual work in progress,” as he’s planning to add another quiet sitting space further back in the outdoor area, decorated with garden art. He admits the work to maintain the property is nothing like when they first bought the home. “It was a jungle,” he says.
“One of the first things I did was removing the brambles, undergrowth, and indigenous shrubby bushes,” says J.T. “I methodically cut down the undesirable, diseased, and insect infected trees.”
J.T. removed the box elder trees, which carry an insect that may feed on maple and ash trees which shed leaves even in the heat, soft maples, which are swallow rooted, and thorny locust trees. In their place, he planted dogwoods, redbuds, crabapples, and magnolias because these ornamental trees grow underneath the canopies of larger trees, and birds enjoy their fruit.
“I’m a treehugger,” he says. “One of the reasons I have stayed in this business is because I love nature. There is a vicarious pleasure that I get from planting trees and coming back 20 to 30 years later and seeing what that tree has grown into.”
He also terraced the backyard to divert water away from the property’s patio and garden. In the last three years, J.T. enlarged the patio and waterfall, and added the hot tub.
Both Julie and J.T., who have been married for seven years, enjoy entertaining guests and grilling outside. Julie works as the director of talent management at Old National Bank where she has been for 25 years. Together, they share a blended family of four children: Colin McCarty, 28, Lauren Falls, 27, Cara McCarty, 26, and Lindsey Falls, 25. The pair own two dogs who have access to the garage and backyard at all times.
“When we come home, we can thoroughly enjoy the tranquility and peace of mind by communing with Mother Nature,” says J.T. “We have deer, wild turkey, and foxes that all walk through our yard, and all kinds of birds, too. When I can come home to relax with a cold drink, unwind, enjoy the blooming azaleas and dogwoods, it makes going home a lot of fun to look forward to. I have a wonderful wife to enjoy it with. I’ve been lucky enough to make my vocation my vacation."
For more information about Colonial Classics, call 812-853-6622 or visit colonialclassics.net.