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Mountain Gardening – relaxation, memory and simple practicality

In the flash of an eye, summertime has arrived in our mountains. With warm, long days, local floral and vegetable gardens are relishing in the sunshine and healthy amounts of rain that have graced our region. On our quest to find some of the prettiest and most bountiful gardens in Johnson County, we discovered that often gardens can become a place of healing.
Judy and Bill McGuire moved into their house with the knowledge that a lot of renovation needed to be done before they could call their house a home. Looking at their spectacular floral garden now, one would never guess that once upon a time trees were scarce, landscaping was non-existent and their beautiful home had no character. As all of their time was spent working inside the home, there was no time to spend planting shrubs, flowers and bulbs. With the help of friends, neighbors and even ideas from the yards of strangers, their floral garden has now become an oasis of peace and tranquility.
When the McGuires' daughter passed away, friends and family began to bring plants and shrubs as a way of remembering Jaye. In a corner of the McGuires’ garden is a patio where folks can sit, relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Judy knows that her daughter, a gardener, would have loved the tranquility of this special place, aptly named “Jaye's Garden.” Each plant, shrub and flower was a gift and that special garden is now full of day lilies, hostas, hydrangeas and snow on the mountain.
Much of the garden has been a series of trial and errors. “You see things you like, and not everything works,” says Judy. She has no qualms about moving plants, dividing and separating, as well as sharing with friends. The floral garden gracefully wraps around their home and onto the surrounding grounds. As you walk through the yard, you will find more day lilies, cone flowers, spider wort and Bells of Ireland. She attributed her large assortment of plants and flowers to her friends. “People are good to share,” Judy added. Hidden among the hostas are the beginning shoots of gladiolas ready to bloom in mid-summer. As you round a corner, there are areas in full bloom with calla lilies, Dragon's blood sedum, volunteer red basil, gout weed, Shasta daisies, spectacular pink spirea and a magnolia tree with beautiful white flowers. Each area of the sprawling garden is inviting and beckons those who find themselves in this oasis to come and explore.
Nancy Garrick returned to her hometown of Mountain City, prepared to start a new life with her husband. Unfortunately, her husband passed away before their home was completed. Garrick continued building and has poured herself into her garden, a way of healing from her pain. As you walk into her side yard, you will find yourself in a delightful herb garden. A mixed blend of scents mingle in the air as you find mint, basil, cilantro and thyme. She refers to her garden as a friendship garden as she received plants and shrubs from family and friends. From those beginnings, her garden exploded into a riot of colors and a large variety of flowers, shrubs and plants of all sizes and types. Garrick, a master gardener for many years, has taken a step back and has begun to downsize her sprawling floral garden. “I started giving plants away by the garbage bag,” said Garrick.
In color-coordinated areas, Garrick has ferns, magnolia trees, hostas and massive amounts of day lilies. She has planted over 100 trees and shrubs. After moving into her home, Garrick discovered that most of the topsoil had been removed. “I hauled soil in from as far away as Abingdon,” said Garrick. Her floral garden, even though smaller in size than it once was, pops in the spring as daffodils, peonies, irises, tulips and lilacs are everywhere. Visitors will also find large, tall purple alliums that seem to gently dance in the breeze, a colorful collection of Asiatic lilies, as well as a rare peony that is a cross between a tree peony and a regular peony. The massive hostas that line Garrick's walkway were all started with one hosta. From that plant, she has divided and split many times until it has become a spectacular showcase. Guests will find her floral garden peaceful and restful, with a large, shady area beckoning a visitor to sit down under the large tree and take in the sounds of a babbling creek just beyond the day lilies.
“When I was a little girl, I had my own vegetable and flower garden,” Garrick recalls. Not only does she currently have a floral garden, but she grows a large variety of vegetables. Rows of corn, French fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus,13 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, peas and a large assortment of beans are just some of the produce growing in her garden this year. According to Garrick, years ago many people in the county had vegetable and floral gardens, no matter how small their home or property. She advocates the benefits of gardening for neighborhoods. “Anywhere you have gardens, the crime rate goes down,” said Garrick, “Gardens and plants help promote healing.”
Garrick is fortunate that her 98-year-old mother, Bonnie Brookshire, lives right next door to her. Brookshire came outside to show her beautiful collection of day lilies, along with a massive, white snowball bush. Amazingly, she worked her vegetable garden until approximately two years ago. Garrick explained her mother has always been particular about her garden. “We have always loved fresh vegetables,” said Brookshire.
R. L. Wallace, now a resident at Mountain City Care Center, will be 87 years old this August. “You need to be in the garden every day, watering or something,” Wallace explained as he gave a tour of his vegetable garden at Mountain City Care Center. Wallace explained that with the help of one of the therapists, he has planted herbs, corn, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes and beans. While he gives much of his produce away, he is counting on his daughter to cook some of the beans he grows. “I could make a good meal on corn, tomatoes, beans and cucumbers,” he said. “My wife was the best cook,” reminisced Wallace, whose wife has passed away.
Wallace spent many years working as a farmer, alongside of his brother. The brothers are together again as they both reside at Mountain City Care Center.