Gardening Matters

One of my favorite garden experiences is to come across a wonderful garden that someone has built up by their own dirty hands, aching back and sweat of their brows.

These are the little gems that are made without the benefits of professional landscape designers and swarming crews of garden specialists to do all the planning, hardscapes, plant installations and maintenance work.

I prefer the beautiful results from gardens that are at heart well-done amateur creations. The work of these gardeners is not likely to be featured in glossy magazines or on home tours. They are personal creations and done simply for the love of gardening. They come in all sizes. They may focus on flowers or on growing vegetables. Some may be dedicated to a particular theme such as roses or wildflowers or varieties of tomatoes. They are all the unsung jewels of the gardening world.

I recently visited such a garden. I had heard about it from the fine ladies of the Dunwoody Woman’s Club and the gardener was kind enough to let me take a look. The family has asked me to refrain from using their name or address.

According to them, they are asking for such anonymity to avoid people showing up at their door unannounced hoping to get a tour.

Frankly I thought that excuse was a bit weak. I think the gentleman of the house is trying to dodge certain legal writs and to avoid the High Sherriff until the Statute of Limitations runs out. But that’s just my opinion.

Regardless of any possible crimes or misdemeanors, he does have a beautiful back garden. He said that when he got started, he asked a friend for advice. She told him that hostas would do well in his shaded yard and that, “You just plant them and they will take care of themselves.”

That was all the advice he needed. He visited the Ashe-Simpson Nursery on Peachtree Boulevard (the garden place across the street from Lowe’s Chamblee store.) He also found a place near Commerce that sold a wide range of plants. Over the next year he bought between 50-60 different cultivars of hostas and put them in his backyard. They have done amazingly well there.

Besides a hosta’s ability to thrive as a low-maintenance plant, there are literally over a thousand particular cultivars of this plant. They come in size from three or more feet across to wee ones about six inches or less across. The leaf colors range from pale green to a rich blue-green. Some have heavily textured leaves while others have smooth leaves. The leaves may be solid green or edged in shades of white or yellow or they may have a white or yellow mid-leaf marking. And some have prominent blooms that range from whitish to lavender. All of these variations in hostas are on display at this house.

They also have a nice collection of ferns to grow among the hostas to add some fine leaved contrast to the large leaved hostas. Add two bubbling fountains, a small gazebo, a bench, an attractive garden shed and a few shady trees around a small green yard and you have a simple yet very attractive garden.

On a hot afternoon in July it was easily 10°-15° cooler in the shaded garden than it was on the sunny patio. It was a real treasure of a garden.

If the warrants ever run out, maybe they’ll let me tell you their name and address so that you and the whole family can drop by unannounced for a visit. You’ll really be impressed.

I would like to periodically dedicate this column to featuring other garden gems such as this. And I’d like to ask your help. If you have such a garden creation at your home or know of a friend or neighbor who has created one of these jewels, please let me know about it.

Give me some basic information on how I can contact the gardener(s) responsible for them. I will, in turn, call them to see if I can visit them and share their accomplishments with all of us.

I am looking for gardens in Dunwoody or any of our nearby neighboring communities (the Dunwoody part of Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, or Chamblee.)

They need not be grand displays of horticultural legerdemain suitable for Architecture Digest or Fine Gardening Magazine. In fact I would prefer that they not be serious candidates for such honors. I’d much prefer to highlight the good work that our many fine amateur gardeners do for the love of gardening. If you know of such a garden, please email me at

I look forward to getting your suggestions and, hopefully, being able to feature some of our local gardeners’ achievements. A little inspiration from our neighbors is good for all of us.

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for more than 30 years and has probably killed at least one of each kind of plant he has tried before getting another one to thrive. He is a gardening volunteer at the Dunwoody Nature Center and works closely with members of the DeKalb Master Gardeners group. He can be reached at

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