Old friends hail “Caesar’s Garden!”

The breathtaking view from Caesar and Dorothy Stair’s home on Lyons View Pike.

When Dr. Doug Leahy recently attended an auction at his church, the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, he placed the winning bid on a private tour for 16 people of Dorothy and Caesar Stair III’s beautiful garden.  Of the two of them, Caesar is the gardener. At age 80, he says he still spends at least 10 hours every weekend working on some part of the oasis. I guess that’s why Dorothy calls it “Caesar’s Garden.”

The lucky tour group (in addition to me!): from left, Don and Margo Puckett, Doug and Carolyn Leahy, Joanne and Ed Owens, Katie and Sid Seals, Alan Carmichael, Rob and Susan McKehan, Libby and Bob Carmon, and Wanda and Earl Kear.

Doug and his wife, Carolyn, invited a convivial group who all had one important thing in common: Fulton High School! In my case, I married a Fulton graduate, as did some of the others in the group. But every couple had some connection to the school, from which Doug, Carolyn and Alan all graduated.

First things first: food and drink! Dorothy holds a beautiful bottle of Pinot Grigio!

Dorothy made all the fabulous food herself. Delish!

This cute frog seemed happy on the serving table.

Mingling time was fun.

Doug Leahy, left, with Susan and Rob McKehan.

Joanne and Ed Owens.

Loved this lovely urn fountain on the patio.

Margo and Don Puckett.

Dorothy Stair, right, with Wanda and Earl Kear.

Alan Carmichael, left, and Sid Seals.

Such a beautiful setting. This is a Fraxinus, commonly called an ash tree.

We went inside where Caesar told us a little about the house. It was built in 1916 and Caesar’s family moved into it in 1956. “There were six of us and one bathroom,” he chuckled. There was no air-conditioning. “The cross-ventilation was good,” he noted.

Caesar discussing the house.

Libby and Bob Carmon.

Caesar’s father found a lot of the furniture while antiquing in New York.

They incorporated some older furniture when Dorothy’s grandmother passed away. And they continually upgraded through the years.

In front, Katie Seals, left, and Carolyn Leahy. In rear, Earl and Wanda Kear.

The tour begins.

Our leader.

The concept for the garden came from the late renowned garden designer Ryan Gainey, of Atlanta. He sketched it on the dining room table when he was staying with the Stairs while he worked on designs for Lakeshore Park.

Caesar was bitten by the gardening bug. He adored the flamboyant Gainey. “He embraced his differentness more than anyone I’ve ever met in my life,” Stair said. “He sent me to the Cotswolds to learn about gardens. ‘How long has this been going on?’ I asked a gardener there. ‘About 2,000 years,’ he said.”

American elm. It’s one of the two largest left standing in Knox County following a killing blight. The other is in Sequoyah Hills. Dorothy said when she moved into the house in 1971, there were 19 American elms there. Today, only two are left.

Alan in front of an oak leaf hydrangea.

Approaching the pool gardens.

Sid and Katie Seals.

Caesar patiently answered all questions.

The Stairs call this the Demilune Garden. It is modeled after Dumbarton Oaks Garden in Georgetown.

Caesar calls those tall plants “hedges on a stick!” Love it!

Another view.

Pretty resting spot.


I bet this fireplace is fun!

Taking a break.

Ed and Joanne Owens.

Pool house.

Pretty porch.

The moon came out!

Great pool.

A Richard Jolley drawing.

This statue came from a Polish artist that Caesar picked up when his friend Victor Ashe was ambassador to Poland. He said Dorothy calls the pool house his “nuditorium!”

That is one large clock!

We moved on to a giant crape myrtle right outside.

Caesar said many folks don’t realize that crape myrtles like to have their roots showing like this! This one sure seems to like it!

The dogwoods were still blooming a little.

Lots of hydrangeas, too.

A climber!

When we returned to the house, Rev. Billy Daniel from Church of the Ascension had arrived to say hello to everyone.

Thanks to those who made it happen! From left: Caesar Stair III, Rev. Billy and Amanda Daniel, Carolyn and Doug Leahy, and Dorothy Stair, seated. Sure was fun.


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13 Responses to Old friends hail “Caesar’s Garden!”

  1. Rusha K Sams, on May 30th, 2024 at 10:12 am said:

    How nice of Caesar and Dorothy to share their home and gardens while making a great contribution to the church! Thanks for letting us have a peek inside this lovely place in Knoxville!

  2. Katherine Brennan, on May 30th, 2024 at 10:18 am said:

    It’s a beautiful scenic serene setting. The fruits of Caesar ‘s hard work.

    Kathy Brennan

  3. Martha Jean Bratton, on May 30th, 2024 at 10:47 am said:

    So beautiful!

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on May 30th, 2024 at 1:29 pm said:

    Rusha: It was super nice of them!

    Katherine: Definitely didn’t happen without a lot of hard work and dedication!

    Martha: Agree 100%!

  5. Bailey, on May 30th, 2024 at 2:01 pm said:

    Wow, the view is stunning. I thought you were travelling!

  6. Joan Ashe, on May 30th, 2024 at 7:46 pm said:

    It is a show place that they proudly share with others. The view is probably one of the prettiest in town.

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on May 30th, 2024 at 9:43 pm said:

    Bailey: Hey! Thanks for reading the Blue Streak! Glad you are at MoxCar. I miss your smiling face at Sticky Rice, but you have made a great decision!

    As far as the view, can you believe that’s right here in Knoxville?

    Joan: Totally agree.

  8. Donna Albritton, on May 31st, 2024 at 10:20 am said:

    Loved the marvelous tour. Thanks!

  9. Nancy Cosgrove, on May 31st, 2024 at 1:25 pm said:

    I am working there tonight. Now I know what I have to look forward to!

  10. Meg Lonon, on May 31st, 2024 at 1:38 pm said:

    Terrific hosts! Best view in town!

  11. Nan Scott, on May 31st, 2024 at 3:42 pm said:

    The stroll I took vicariously through Caesar’s Garden was exhilarating. The garden is.gracious and has breathtaking views. I especially love the American Elm. Then getting to see the Stair’s lovely home was a great bonus. Thank you Bluestreak!

  12. Monte Seymour, on May 31st, 2024 at 4:15 pm said:

    Great article and pictures, wish he could include their garden in the Dogwood Gardens, thank you for letting us take the tour through the article.

  13. Cathy Briscoe, on May 31st, 2024 at 4:37 pm said:

    I always love seeing pictures of the spectacular views from Briscoe/ Stair home. That “Hilltop” has a lot of Knoxville history. My Briscoe ancesters originally built the house the Stairs now live in over a hundred years ago. It’s the only one not demolished of the original homes built by the Fulton’s, Rodgers and Malloy families

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