Saturday, May 20, 2006

I never promised you a rose garden.

This morning was the SAAC's Art in the Garden event. I had several reasons for attending, primary amongst them the opportunity to actually see the garden of my backdoor neighbors. We share a majestic oak and I see their help working in the mulch pit year round, but the garden has remained something of a mystery until today.

Frances and Harold Thompson
608 Lakeview Drive

Harold Thompson is a retired Professor of Piano at MSU and founder of our local Piano Showcase. His wife Frances Thompson née Benson is a talented artist. The garden started with "a dreadful eroded clay bank and a broken concrete patio." The former became the terraced beds you see here. That's Harold on the right below.


The garden has many features chief amongst them some nice laid stonework walls, a working vegetable garden, and a variety of plantings and beds.



This raised area seen below particularly reminded me parts of the gardens at Filoli in Woodside, California, an area I spent 10 years living near in the 1980s and 90s.



Famed local artist George Thurman did some plein air painting of the flowerbed just above.

george thurman1.jpg

george thurman2.jpg

There was an amazing plethora of different flora in bloom.


The next two stops were around the corner on Trotter Lane.

Barry and Karen Herring
109 Trotter Lane


Besides being an avid gardener, Barry also happens to be my dentist. Award winning local artist Dylan Karges was painting in the backyard accompanied by the dulcet singing of The Arnold-Peters Happy Singers. I didn't think to ask them what shape note tradition they belonged to, although an easy bet would be sacred harp.



I have several pieces by Dylan in different media in my personal collection, including the requisite clay figure and a striking black and white woodblock print.



But back to the Herring's nice garden.


What the mailbox promised, the bush beside the check-in table more than confirmed. Barry's blooms had the most "pop" on today's tour.


Barry proclaims this simple bed surrounding a fountain as seen below one of his favorite parts of the garden.


Hopefully she framed her imaginary picture better than I did my real one!


Since I didn't make a 360° tour of the house, I might be downplaying some elements of this garden which I missed. The garden really uses railroad ties effectively to highlight its various beds.

Jane and Ira Loveless
108 Trotter Lane


Jane is a Master Gardener and her garden features the most architectural elements of any we saw today, including an enormous and atypical square gazebo and a garden house whimisically made to appear "like an old homeplace."



As a child of the 1960s South and those famous old "blue highways," I especially appreciated the "See Rock City" birdhouse, which Jane tells me is currently home to some brooding and nesting bluebirds. The front porch of the garden house drives this theme home further.


Here's a sampler of the plantings and beds surrounding the back patio and 15,000 gallon goldfish, koi, and mechanical duck pond.


The two out structures are neatly tied together by a garden that leads one naturally down the sidehill into a natural unimproved area, that Jane calls a "shade garden," a feature too often overlooked by gardeners too desirous of shaping every single inch of space a la "Capability" Brown.


Marie and Frank Benci
400 Myrtle Street


The Benzi's garden was the oldest continually kept by original owners on the tour as well as being the quaintest and coziest house and easily the shadiest garden overall. One of its specialties are interesting front yard rock garden plantings with a slight Southwestern feel.




Another nice feature are the redbuds and hackberry trees which provide much of the shade.



The garden also entails a small amount of fairly intricate ornate stone and rock work paths.


So far I've shown you the public garden which you can see from Myrtle or North Montgomery. But there's also an interior private garden surrounding a pool and patio. Here's just a taste.


Marilyn and Larry Tabor
503 Lincoln Green


The Tabor's garden in its current state is the youngest on the tour. One feature by their pool patio I have yet to comment upon. I will note that a similar structure could be found at all five houses on the tour whether it was fully attached to the house, semi-detached, or a stand alone as below. Here Larry Tabor (r) and Chip Tempelton relax between musical sets and visitors. Apparently the pergola has made a comeback in landscape and garden circles since its nadir in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Around here they seem to like calling such structures "arbors." It's a fine distinction between shaded sitting and shaded walking. Furthermore, the relative size when an arbor becomes a pergola is unclear, so we'll call it a toss-up.


The backyard gently slopes down and away from the pool, patio, and house. One of the garden's specialties is azaleas, and I will surely return next spring to see them in their full glory.




As this was the last of the five houses I visited since it's on the other side of town from the other four and from my house as well, it's no surprise that Jeanette Jarmon is the furthest along of any of our plein art participants.


Well that was quite a morning. As Felder, Dirt, and Peter Gabriel would surely say:
Keep Digging In The Dirt!

1 comment:

Jan Blencowe said...


This was a wonderful treat! I'm both an avid gardener and plein air painter and this looks like it was a wonderful event! Thanks for sharing it!

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