At this Tennessee haven, no wimpy plants need apply
Faithful readers, I know you find this hard to believe, but Facebook is good for something other than engaging in acrimonious political debate. In my case, it helps me find nice gardens. Several years ago, Robyn Griffith Brown became a Facebook friend. When she started posting photos of her backyard garden, I like to have fell out.
“Oh, rapture!” sang my spirit in perfect pitch. What a great story for Southern Living! Fortunately, the powers-that-be at the magazine agreed whole-heartedly (of course). They recently sent photographer Robbie Caponetto to capture its beauty for a feature story to appear next summer. But YOU don’t have to wait that long for an inspiring glimpse or two. Shortly after Robbie finished shooting, Robyn invited me to a garden party to celebrate with friends. Good times were had by all.
Buyer and manager for the superb Moore and Moore Garden Centers around Nashville, Robyn has been building her garden piece-by-piece for more than 20 years. Though surrounded by plants in her work, she says she’s not a plant expert and often can’t remember botanical names. (Shame, Robyn!) However, as an experienced photographer, photostylist, and designer, she knows what plants look great together, which ones make great focal points, and how to guide your eye along a path to discover a surprise.
The garden combines myriad trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, groundcovers, and bulbs wonderfully well. There’s very little lawn. Instead, low-maintenance plants, mulch, rocks, and gravel carpet the garden’s floor. Creeping perennials peek out from cracks between stepping stones. Arching stems adorned with flowers lean out over the paths to slow your advance to keep you from missing details. Foliage of many different colors, shapes, and textures catch the eye even more than the flowers.
Hard Work Pays Off
Looking at these photos, you’d think Robyn started out with perfect soil. You’d be wrong – they don’t call this part of Tennessee “Rocky Top” for nothing. Many of the rocks in the garden started out as rocks under the garden. Digging was back-breaking work, but hostas and begonias won’t grow in rock. Robyn made improving her soil with copious amounts of organic matter job #1. She spent more money on building good soil than on the plants that went into it.
The Strong Will Thrive
Robyn’s career keeps her plenty busy, so where does she find the time to care for such a seemingly complex garden? Answer: she simplified things by editing out wimpy, fussy plants that need constant attention to survive. She soaks the garden thoroughly once a week using an oscillating sprinkler. Any plant that needs more water than that dies. Then she replaces it with something tougher.
If you want to see more of Robyn’s garden, you’ll just have to wait until your Southern Living arrives next summer. In the meantime, I would like to thank her for the excellent variety of adult beverages served at the garden party on that warm afternoon. Nothing works better for me than strolling through a garden with a craft brew in hand.