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October 2006


FEATURES

Southern Roots

(Page 3 of 3)

Small trees and shrubs were encouraged to knit together with time, a skill Betsy learned from a week-long intensive with Michael Dirr, the famous treemeister. From Dirr she learned to raise veritable twigs into sizable survivors. That knowledge allowed Betsy, an inveterate botanical collector, to cast a broader net than what was available in nearby nurseries. Armed with her own starter nursery that she monitored like an intensive care unit, Betsy acquired choice (but fledgling) novelties from far-afield nurseries such as Forestfarm in Oregon and Heronswood in Pennsylvania. The interesting cast of characters she assembled is another reason the garden has piquing power.

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Also included here are plants that hold interest from one season to next and serve purposes beyond simply looking pretty. Fond of feathered visitors, Betsy makes sure berries are a large part of the stew. In autumn and throughout the winter, they provide sustenance for the birds trying to eke out an existence when food is scarce. They also serve as bright focal points for the garden that can be enjoyed by humans and birds alike.

Betsy also believes in the liberal use of boxwood (certainly a Southern standby), as it gives the garden structure when the perennials disappear. Furthermore, she's cunningly selected trees with comely shapes. (Dogwoods and magnolias are favorites, but styrax, stewartia and a rare form of fringe tree also serve the purpose.) In the winter, those shrubs and trees not only form a twiggy framework, they also shelter the house from the bracing north wind.

The end result is a space that stays cool in the summer, warm in the winter and beautiful all year round. The garden is, in a word, ingenious. True to her character, Betsy dilutes that effusion, claiming, "It's really just a mixture of accident and good fortune."

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