SALISBURY — When Ann Meredith told Don and Sandy Graham that the Symphony Guild had lined up a violin player to perform in their yard during this year’s garden tour, Don replied that a steel drum band would be more suitable for their property.
It’s true that the Grahams’ home on High Rock Lake has a cozy Caribbean feel, with some 30 palm trees dotting the landscape, including sable palmettos, windmill palms, needle palms and European fern palms. Three or four different varieties of banana plants — Sandy’s favorites — add to the garden’s tropical flavor.
And they’re not the bedraggled specimens you sometimes see in these parts. They’re lush and green and well taken care of. Babied even. Don gives them the special fertilizer they need to make up for what the soil here lacks.
After living in several other homes on the lake, starting in 1965, the Grahams bought their current home from Sandy’s brother in 1991. They remodeled the interior and transformed the grounds into a lovely, cool oasis, adding a deck, an impressive slate patio and attending to the landscape with an eye for the beautiful and the unusual.
In the corner sits a beautiful little Victorian-style playhouse Don built to scale for their grandchildren, complete with two sleeping lofts. In the winter it’s used as a greenhouse for some of the palm trees.
Don notes that they don’t have any commercial yard help — he and Sandy do all planting and maintenance themselves and get great pleasure from it.
“It’s good exercise, and it’s relaxing and fun,” says Don, who adds that he usually doesn’t see much reason to go into town and leave their tropical paradise. They also have the lake for entertainment, with jet skis, a pontoon boat and kayaks at their disposal.
They normally have eight or 10 feet of nice sandy beach, Sandy points out, but the rain has temporarily eaten up their shoreline.
“We just love birdwatching,” Don says, noting that they’ve seen mallard ducks, coots and bald eagles, in addition to numerous egrets and herons. Sandy recalls a pet goose named Gus who hung out at their place for 10 years, eating the corn offered. One day, she says, a female came flying in and Gus took off with her, never to be seen again.
A maturing garden
The lush formal gardens of Jack Page and Robert Myers have been on the Symphony Guild’s tour many times. That means that anyone paying attention has gotten to see how a garden grows and matures over time. Every year, there are more roses — over 600 now, Robert says. But there is so much more, including a lot of beautiful and unusual specimen plants that will have tour-goers asking, “What’s that?” and “Will it grow in my yard?”
Robert and Jack moved five years ago from a house on West Monroe Street to their house in the Forest Glen subdivision, transplanting hundreds of roses from their old home to their new home on East Glenview Drive.
Roses are both work and pleasure for Jack and Robert, who own The Perfect Rose, a thriving business specializing in rose garden installation and maintenance.
Robert says that he doesn’t recall plants ever blooming as early as they did this year. Normally, rose bushes begin to flower around Mother’s Day, but this year they started in early April. But never fear; the gardens will still have plenty of color to offer tour-goers — just not quite the riot of several weeks ago.
A pond near the house features darting koi and the peaceful sound of falling water. Strolling the arbored paths of the impeccably maintained grounds — done entirely by Jack and Robert, except for lawn fertilizing — might prompt you to think you’ve fallen into a Jane Austen novel and wonder why you’re not arm-in-arm with some country squire.
On the tour
The Salisbury Symphony Guild’s “A Symphony of Gardens” tour is Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20.
Here is a complete list of stops on the tour:
• Senter garden, 135 Shortsail Road
• Graham garden, 300 Topsail Road
• Carolina Lily, 1375 Kern Carlton Road (Reserve a picnic lunch for Saturday or Sunday by calling 704-639-0033)
• Myers/Page garden, 302 E. Glenview Drive.
• Murtaugh garden, 3507 Mooresville Road
• Comer Garden, 5311 Mooresville Road
• Villa Franca Estate, 4530 Patterson Road, China Grove
• Millbridge Elementary discovery garden, 155 Ed Deal Road, China Grove
• Maple Hill Farm, 385 Sugar Maple Lane, Mt. Ulla
• Patterson Farm, 10390 Caldwell Road, Mt. Ulla
• Grass Creek Gardens, 15404 Mooresville Road, Mooresville
• Sloan Park, 550 Sloan Road, Mt. Ulla
• Harriss garden, 975 Briggs Road, Salisbury
• Cauble Creek Vineyard, 700 Cauble Farm Road, Salisbury
• Rowan Rose Show, Salisbury Mall (Saturday 1-7 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m.)
Tour hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday, rain or shine.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 on tour days. You can buy tickets by phone at 704-638-3100 or 800-332-2343 or in person at the Rowan County Visitors’ Bureau, 204 E. Innes St., Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Visit www.salisburygardentour.org for complete tour details and to buy tickets online.