Chuck Gregory is no stranger to nature. Growing up in Indiana he spent the summers hiking and going on nature walks with his family.

That love of nature followed him into his career. He is now retired from a long career with Georgia State Parks.

So when it came time to finally tackle the backyard in his East Cobb home he knew exactly what he wanted. All it took was finding the right company to help execute his vision. He worked with Chris Serafin of Top Notch Landscapes to reinvigorate the space.


This was no easy feat. Gregory’s backyard is an odd shape. It has a deep slope that leads off into a small creek and also converges into a triangle to share space with his neighbors on each side. So the team at Top Notch had their work cut out for them. Part of the main attraction of the yard is the custom fireplace that was built. Gregory knew he wanted the fireplace, and Serafin’s team was able to draw out plans that exceeded his vision perfectly. This wasn’t without some ingenuity — the back of the fireplace had to be built up several feet because of the slope in the yard to make sure it was level with the patio area.

Aside from the fireplace, the custom stonework on the patio is a visually stunning aspect of the yard. Appropriately named “veggie grout,” the design work adds a little bit of stone work with allowing the grass to peek through.

“In my work we try to be different from the norm through our choice of plant material and artistic design,” said Serafin. “I just try to make things as unique and different as possible for character and interest.”


A visible aspect of the backyard is the variety of plant life interwoven into the space. There are hydrangeas, mini magnolias, azaleas and more. Gregory’s goal was to create a space that was low maintenance, which was accomplished. The plants are hearty and they do well with the climate and thanks to rainy weather, needs little tending to.

Overall, Gregory is quite pleased with the space and the work done by Serafin and his crew.

“It was better than I thought it could be, they did such a beautiful job,” said Gregory. “It was the combo of the craftsmanship of their work and the landscaping coming together.”

Being a small space, Gregory said one of his main goals with the project was to show others that it can be done. This tiny sanctuary could spark someone else’s idea for their own yard.

He gets plenty of use out of the space. One of his favorite ways to enjoy it is with coffee in the mornings and hosting friends and family over. There are even lights in the trees, which he turns on at night for a truly mesmerizing experience against the lush backdrop of the yard.

And, of course, he’s not done yet — more plants and some unique artwork are on the horizon for the space.


Chris Serafin | Owner | 770-919-9294 | 1436 Canton Drive, Suite A, Marietta

Chris Serafin has been working in landscape since he was a teen and has been running Top Notch since the last ‘80s. The small company (about 8 - 9 employees) has been able to maintain their stakehold in the landscape and design world for quite a long time, with residential renovations being their bread and butter.

“We just strive for excellence,” said Serafin as a testament to the company’s longevity. “We’re not the cheapest, but not the most expensive and I believe we’re fair and follow up. If something isn’t right, we make it right.”

They are able to work on about two to three projects at a time and generally stick close to Cobb with their projects. They do venture out into Alpharetta, Johns Creek and Buckhead on some occasions.

Photography by Erin Gray Cantrell


LaTria Garnigan is the Magazine Coordinator for Cobb Life. She has more than 10 years of experience editing newspapers and magazines. When she's not working, she enjoys trying out new recipes, traveling and binge-watching and live-tweeting TV shows.

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