Wednesday, May 5, 2010
When the McKenna's moved from backcountry Maine to southeast Georgia, they thought they had reached civilization at last. But Brooklet is one of the quietest towns I know. It's the slow, gentle pace of life that gives one time to work in the garden, think and be creative.
Donna, the lady of the house, is known for her thrift and exuberance. Her well-known book, The $30 a Week Grocery Budget, first published in 1991, is a favorite of prudent homemakers. She admits that the budget might be increased to $50 a week, but probably won't. That's thrift. Donna's exuberance shows in her hospitality with the table nearly groaning under the weight of food. How does she do it?
Her garden reflects her character. Nearly every plant was obtained for free, or propagated. She, in turn, generously gives plants away, especially Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus).
Her husband, John, is a plant enthusiast. Having worked around nurseries, he has brought home all kinds of seeds, bulbs and cuttings. John, native to New Jersey, is now a licensed tour guide and owner of Carpetbagger Tours of Savannah. I bet he's always peeking into gardens en route.
Most of her acquisitions are old-fashioned varieties, their names often unknown to her. Attractive weeds like spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) and Viola species grow in wild profusion along with cannas, crocosmia, daylilies, iris, roses and yarrow (Achillea spp.). English boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa') line paths paved with recycled brick. Snowrose (Serissa foetida) softens and fills bare corners. Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) beckons the nose.
Flower bulbs including shamrock (Oxalis spp.), Amaryllis (Hippeastrum cvs.), narcissus, lilies and bluebells (Hyacinthoides) pop up everywhere. Escaped house plants (Setacea and Saxifraga stolonifera) have made themselves at home outdoors. Conifers such as cedars (Cedrus deodora) and Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) punctuate the landscape. Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), chocolate vine (Akebia quinata), creeping fig (Ficus pumila), wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), and Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) drape from porches, trellises and trees. It's a joyful sight.
As we walked to the vegetable and herb garden, Donna had to show me what they had uncovered: spicebush (Lindera benzoin). I explained how to make tea from it.
The raised bed vegetable garden is planted with garlic, arugula and rhubarb, along with more conventional plants. Of course, herbs are grown not only in the herb garden, but in clay pots, decorative containers, and tucked into every imaginable crevice. Mint seems to be Donna's ground cover of choice.
Whimsical sculptures, fountains and furnishings express Donna's effervescence. A rain barrel is a sign of her care.
In another town, you might pass a garden like Donna's without noticing it. Very old camellias screen some of it from the street. But this is Brooklet, GA where everyone drives slowly. So if you pass the McKenna house, you'll certainly be tempted to wonder what grows behind that evergreen wall.
Return to goGardenNow.com.