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October 2006


FEATURES

Southern Roots
By Tovah Martin
Photographs by John M. Hall

TENNESSEE-BORN BETSY MANNING CREATES HER NORTHERN GARDEN WITH SOUTHERN CHARM

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Compliments will get you nowhere with Betsy Manning. Flatter her and she'll study her shoes or develop an intense fascination for whatever botanical reference she happens to be toting around. She'll even lose her train of thought. What she won't do is readily agree that her welcoming garden is, well, brilliant.

You could pin Betsy's reticence on the type of Southern hospitality that is gracious but not boastful. Although she has lost almost all vestiges of her accent in her migration from Tennessee to New England—with stops in Virginia (where she and her husband went to school) and New York (where he worked as a lawyer)—Betsy infused her garden with a Southern panache, though she won't cotton to any contrivance whatsoever. She and her family's garden remain as cordial and casual as they come.

Forget the stiff allée of pleached whatever that adorns many garden entrances. Skip the hollow and dull reception of clipped evergreens that too often stand sentinel. Swinging in from the road to the Manning home, visitors move through a procession of shrubs and trees, parking their cars beside a grove that has attained remarkable stature in the eight years the family has been in residence. A stone walkway to the front door is flanked by a simple but smart pachysandra receiving line, and a detour through the courtyards leads to various dogwoods, lilacs and spireas shading small botanical novelties.

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