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Garden Envy

By Jeanne Cope
In the United States Navy there is a saying: “The difficult we do now, the impossible takes a little longer.”
The spectacular four-season gardens of Dawn and Jackie Peters are an example of a difficult job, that combined with determination and persistence, are the result of their expert planning and hard work.
And as gardens grow, this one will knock your socks off.
The gardens have been on my watch list for five years, and I have observed many changes brought to this hillside home site with the front gardens at about a 45-degree angle, and the back garden slightly less, but still steep.
They have incorporated the beauty of four seasons, slope management, underground sprinklers, removal of hard clay and replacement with rich compost, interesting shaped edges and a commingling of varieties and cacophony of flower colors which keep the gardens lovely year around. Additionally they have included hardscape as benches, use of a dead tree for birdhouses, bird feeders, metal trellis for clematis and stones to outline the edges of the gardens. The gardens contain sixteen yards of mulch, six inches deep.

The Peters have resided in their “new” home for ten years, and are constantly planting and adding ideas into the site that would be daunting to many. In bloom when I was there were peonies, iris, roses, lupines, columbine, spirea, bleeding heart, and cultivars some in bloom, others simply greenery. Picture this great variety with many colors of each and you will know the May garden. In June the daylilies, crepe myrtles, butterfly bushes and salvias join their friends to bloom for a month or more.

Dawn, the gardener of the family, followed the lead of her Mother and gardening relatives who grew great gardens. When they moved to this house, Jackie joined in, working with hardscape, land design and replacement of hard clay with rich compost. Jackie is an accomplished gardener in his own right and together, they designed and developed the gardens visible today.

Dawn shares details on rooting cuttings of roses from her Mother’s garden. “If you root roses in November, they will grow,” she states. Lupines are rarely seen in the TriCities, “this is about their southern limit, and they dislike summer heat and humidity.” Jackie is quick to add lupines self sow, and need transplanting when small. “Their very long taproots are difficult. Break the taproot and they will die,” he says.

In late fall, Snow on the Mountain comes up from seed. Dawn discovered she is allergic to their sap when it got into her eyes. She now removes the seeds so they don’t sprout.

In addition to roses from her Mother’s garden, Dawn has boxwoods and other flowers from gardens of the past. She grows long-handled dipper gourds and trains the shape of the gourds as they grow. Shined up and finished, the creatively shaped gourds are most unusual items. Dawn also has an extensive vegetable garden above the hill in back. They eat lots, and she preserves the rest for winter use. The Peters’ have a creative gardening life, and in the process, slow traffic in their neighborhood as passerby enjoys the blooms. Happy Gardening Everyone!

Jeanne Cope is a Garden Writer and UT Master Gardener
Email her [email protected]