Home Page
Order Books
Featured Plants
Seasonal Advice
News Columns
Other Work

Book Signings and Lectures
by Monica Brandies


Would you like to be notified of new books or website updates?
Join our Mailing List.
It is completely confidential and voluntary. You may Subscribe or Unsubscribe at any time.



Planning Pays in Wildes Garden

When Carolyn Wildes sits on the steps overlooking the garden, this is what she sees.

It is hard to believe that the fantastic gardens around the home of Carolyn and Tom Wildes have evolved only since the fall of 2002. Tom hired someone to come clear the area between their small hill and the wall around their development that backs their property.

"We weren't home when they came, and when we returned, the whole back yard was white sand," Wildes says, still appalled at the scene she has captured in photos in the garden notebook of laminated pages on which she has kept a journal of the garden's growth.

"We planted a small butterfly garden first. Then we had two tons of rock delivered to the front and brought them around to the back by the wheelbarrow load for the fish pond and waterfall."

This feature is now the focal point not only for the back yard but from the front door as well. Usually I don't go even go into a house when I visit a garden. This time I confess I walked through with barely a notice of the interior. But I stopped short on the back screened patio where the fragrance of gardenias filled the air.

To the right is an arbor with quisqualis or rangoon creeper vining over it and a bright pink mallow beside it.

"These leaves look a little bit pale," she says. That is natural when gardenias bloom. No matter how much fertilizer you give them, they send most of it to the bloom. The Wildes' hedge of gardenias was full of large blooms and fat buds again this spring, but in previous years it has dropped almost all of its leaves after blooming, then leafed out anew.

"Of course, that happened last year when we had people on a Pond Tour coming through and they were rather stunned," she says. But not for long.

The property is pie shaped, on a curve in the front, spreading far along the wall in the back. Tom is a collector of crotons, a member of the Croton Society, and has over fifty different kinds. Most of them are along the east side of the house and part of the back. These people use mass plantings to the best advantage.

Along the east side of the back yard is their citrus grove, ten small trees that have already given them more grapefruit than they can eat. Behind it is a bed of blueberries from which several pints get to the kitchen every year.

There are relatively small sections of fine turf in the front, along the sides, through the grove, across the terrace right outside the patio, and down the small hill. But major portion of the back yard is a formal garden with mulched beds neatly edged and mulched paths. Two pignut hickory trees stand on either side of garden and give a pleasant balance of shade and sun as well as a suitable third dimension and frame for the garden.

Wildes's orchids grow on the wall and move to the spotlight when they are in bloom.

"We put in the steps because people tended to trip down the hill, but then the steps looked bare so we put the small beds around them," Wildes says. She has been a gardener ever since she was a little kid with her packet of zinnia seeds.

Her two favorite things in a garden are fragrance and color. "I have rosemary plants here and there to rub as we pass." And her color combinations are carefully planned and very effective.

Like most gardeners, there are a few plants whose names are uncertain. "I tried to save all the tags, but we put in so much so fast that a few got lost," she says. In her garden notebook, which is as much a work of art as the garden, she has a list of almost all of the plants with common and botanical names. Then there are detailed journal reports with dates, photos, and her own drawings. She also has another notebook with magazine articles, photos, and garden ideas that she has come across and may someday use.

Carolyn's garden notebook is a work of art.

Now's the time to...

  • Make the most of permanent and architectural features in our gardens. The Wildeses have planted creeping fig on part of the wall and hope it will spread. Other parts are eye-catching with decorative hangers of orchids and other blooming plants.
  • Wildes admits she is a heavy feeder, using whatever fertilizer she brings home. Remember to water before feeding during the dry weeks of May or feed after the rains when they come.
  • Use more ornamental grasses. Carolyn took a class on these and has worked several kinds into the garden very well.