In the Garden:
Middle South
February, 2009
Regional Report

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Dare to be different by creating a unique garden designed to suit your taste.

Make Your Garden a Personal Haven

More than 100 years ago, the English poet Alfred Austin wrote, "Show me your garden and I shall tell you who you are." Hmm, that may have been true in Austin's time, but I wonder what he might say if he strolled a suburban neighborhood today?

On my two-block street, yards are bland and painfully neat. Wide sweeps of lawn stretch from sidewalk to front door, while rows of foundation shrubs are pruned to within an inch of their life. More than 145 crape myrtles can be counted (and who knows how many more lurk in the backyard, out of view?), along with too many 'Nellie R. Stevens' hollies, 'Leyland' cypress, and 'Bradford' pear trees.

I understand Austin's sentiment, however. Some gardeners, like my friend Val Hutchinson, give free reign to their interests and enthusiasms, and their personal spaces reflect those passions.

Val's garden, in an upscale neighborhood adjacent to a painstakingly maintained golf course, includes a wooden ladder that spans the distance between two tall trees, creating an arbor for vines and shade for a hammock below. Her compost pile is conveniently located under a bunny hutch, and one corner of the back yard grows completely wild, providing food and cover for birds and other wildlife.

Val's garden is uniquely Val, with each part reflecting her love and respect for the natural world.

"Perfection is overrated when it comes to gardens and people, and for the same reasons," Val explains. "Give me a quirky garden and a fascinating friend any day."

Wise woman, wouldn't you say?

When my family moved to Greenville eight years ago, the windows of our new home revealed a bleak and empty view. Too busy to worry about the garden for six months or so, I contented myself with a "wish list."

In retrospect, it was the perfect place to start. Before the first spade of soil was turned, I knew what structural elements would go where, and what plants would grow in, around, over and among them.

What about you? What pleases you most in a garden? Do you prefer formal, symmetrical arrangements? Or, are informal layouts, with curving beds and asymmetrical balance, a better fit for your style?

Do you have a memory of a special garden you would like to evoke in your landscape? Do you dream of a quiet corner for meditation? A small plot to grow vegetables? Or, is your imagination inspired by a favorite color, plant, or season of the year?

From time to time, I still refer to the list I created during those first months in our new home. Like a business plan, it reminds me where I started and where I'm headed. Of course, there's been recalculation and revision along the way. But the resulting garden, designed first and foremost for personal pleasure, is always a source of happiness.


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