By Wayne Hinshaw
The Salisbury Symphony Garden Tour had 15 stops this year. This is an account of 4 of the gardens.
Grass Creek Gardens
Why use ornamental grass in your landscaping?
Grass Creek owner, Bill Oakley, says it is an easy answer.
"With ornamental grasses, you cut (the grass) once a year and sit on the porch and watch the grass grow the rest of the time. You don't want to fertilize because the grass will get floppy and leggy."
Nancy Oakley, who calls herself the "extreme gardner," points out that mature ornamental grass landscaping gives your garden a change of color with drought tolerance and very little maintenance. On windy days, the grass gives you movement and form from bushy to upright grass.
When the Oakleys started their gardens 15 years ago, most people didn't know what ornamental grasses were. They now call themselves "garden builders." They have 32 varieties in their nursery ranging in height from 2 inches to 18 feet. Some of the grass names are giganteus, variegates, zebra grass, giant miskanthus, karley rose, lindheimer, giant reed grass (looks like corn stacks), Russian sage, sedum, and water iris in the pond.
Between the gardens the Oakley's have a small golf pitching course that they enjoy. Nancy adds that during the winter when they cut the grasses, they find golf balls in their beds.
When you add bird baths, bird houses, a few urns, and use stone wisely with the grass gardens, you have a beautiful landscape. The reflections of the grasses around the pond give the scene depth and places for small animals, like frogs. to live.
Villa Franca Estate
The 1857 home of Confederate Army surgeon Dr. Francis Neely Lucky was named Villa Franca when it was constructed at the Millbridge Road-Brown Road intersection. It was moved to Patterson Road several years ago to its present location and restored. Dennis and Ginger Black now live in the home and use it for special events such as weddings or receptions.
The drive entrance to the home is through an arched gate with a "welcome" sign hanging overhead. The manicured landscaping shrubs in front of Villa, have a white stone driveway, making the green shrubs look more green. The shrubs form the shape of a heart. There is a horse drawn buggy parked inside the heart. The raised flower beds are lined with gray stone walls supporting various flowers such as roses and lilies in purples and yellows and reds. On the edge of the property a line of blueberry bushes, hanging full of berries, line a split rail fence. Acres of yellow grain stand beyond the fence nearing harvest time.
Jim and Pat Murtaugh exhibited their organic vegetable and fruit garden with strawberries, blackberries, arugula, kale, spinach, tomatoes, corn, beets, onions, lettuce, okra, Swiss chard, and peppers. Speaking laughingly about his organic garden, Murtaugh said, "I plant enough so that I can share a little with the bugs."
Garlic has been harvested and hung in the barn for drying. The neat orderly garden has an unusual feature because Murtaugh has combined vegetables with blueberry bushes and muscadine grape vines in the same garden space.
There was a compost demonstration by master gardener Pat Irvin. She stresses that she uses a lot of mulched tree leaves and chicken mature in her compost. She collects her left over vegetables and runs them through a food processor making a veggie juice which she adds to her compost as a fertilizer. The earthworms love the veggie juice in the compost.
Irvin prefers to leave grass out of her compost because of the seeds from the grass. Coffee filters can be added to the compost, but it takes a long time for the filters to break down, so Irvin leaves them out of her mixture.
Retired educator, Carol Comer's flower gardens are one of the most talked about stops on the tour. Visitors passed the word that her garden was not to be missed. A crowd favorite, was her multi-colored hydrangea garden next to her brick home. Blue and pink giant blooms brighten her brick patio.
The master gardener's patio includes raised brick flower beds with roses and guara flowers in bloom. Her newly restored water feature pool has been restocked with fish for the tour. Near the pool the herb garden has sage, dill, lemon verbena, chives, oregano, and German thyme.
The gardens, in front of her 1932 home, surround a tree. There are Helleborus orientals, Lenton rose plants, hosta guava mole among the plants. The side yard has a Southern Magnolia and a "Little Gem" magnolia tree beginning to bloom. The unripened green blackberries and white blooms cover the bushes in the back yard.
Carol makes "Glitzy Glass Art" works from clear glass dishes that she finds in yard sales and flea markets. The glass sculptures are about 2 feet tall made with various cut glass items. No two sculptures are the same.
In the bright sunlight they glow with reflected light adding a flash of sparkle to an already beautiful flower garden.
Small living plants have been "planted" in a "living wreath" ready for hanging. The plants will continue to grow and get larger as summer approaches.