A native of Camden, Bibs married Henley Hurt the summer after she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Converse College. They lived in Charleston and Denver before moving to Columbia in 1970. Henley served as Chief of Medicine at Fort Jackson Army Hospital for two years and then set up his medical practice in 1972. They have two daughters and six grandchildren, three of whom are lucky enough to live near their grandparents in Columbia.
Forever the student, Bibs received a Master of Arts degree from USC and finished the Clemson Extension Master Gardener program in the 1990s. She also continued to take classes at Midlands Tech in landscape design and at Riverbanks Garden in horticulture under former Director Jim Martin. She served as president of the Columbia Garden Club and has been an active member for 40 years. She also served on the board of trustees of the Columbia Museum of Art for 10 years as well as on the City of Columbia’s Design Development Review board. She volunteers for various community service opportunities, although she is most passionate about her involvement with First Presbyterian Church. Bibs enjoys her small library of gardening books and design that she has collected over the years as well attending gardening seminars.
When did you first become interested in gardening?
It was a natural thing … I am just attracted to plants and really can’t remember a time when I didn’t love them. My first opportunity to have my own garden was in a small window box at our apartment in Charleston when Henley was in school. I remember I was so proud of myself when I completed one straight row of little marigolds with one yellow bloom each with another straight row of annual red salvia behind it. I think back and realize I have come a long way. But I love to learn, read and take classes, thus gardening provides a wonderful challenge. I want to never stop learning.
When did you start this garden?
We started our present garden in the mid-1970s when we bought our house here in Columbia, and our approach to gardening was haphazard to say the least. In the spring we went to a garden center and bought what we thought was pretty with no plan at all. Big changes came with Hurricane Hugo in 1989 — our back garden was totally destroyed. We then hired a design team from Madison, Ga. to draw a complete plan for a new garden, and our instructions were that we wanted as many flowering plants as possible. The plan came with more than 500 specified, most of which were unfamiliar to us.
Over one whole summer we drew the bed lines, tilled, amended the soil and installed the plant material. As the years went by, some plants died. Some we didn’t like and replanted with ones we learned about. Completing the Clemson Extension Master Gardener program was very helpful, and I collected gardening books and attended lectures and seminars on various gardening topics. The classes with Jim Martin, originator of Riverbanks Garden, were also quite enlightening. The garden still changes each year as we change, add and eliminate plants.
What is the biggest change your garden has undergone?
A major change came when our house burned in 2002. Fred Gant, a family friend who owns Hay Hill, came by and offered to dig up and “babysit” what he could after the fire. He put them in pots, and they were on their own for two years in a field while we rebuilt our house. During that period, there was no irrigation and very little attention was given to what was left on the property. Our new house was completed in 2004, and Hay Hill returned our plants and replanted them for us. Some plants weathered the storm and its aftermath fairly well, and many of these plants are still in our garden and are thriving. It was then that we decided that we should have fewer perennials and more woody shrubs, especially hydrangeas and Japanese maples. Our new garden is quite different from the old one. Each plant has something to offer at different times of the year. We have planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs, and I am thrilled every spring when they bloom.
Can you tell me about your tree named for Hannah and its miraculous survival?
When Hannah, our first grandchild, was born, we commemorated that joyous occasion by planting a small Japanese maple. After our house burned, the Hannah tree was dug up and potted with the rest. It stayed in the field with others plants from our garden. Japanese maples are tough, and we replanted the Hannah tree right by the gate. It is just gorgeous — in the spring it is bright red, it is green in the summer, and in the fall it’s color is beautiful before losing its leaves. It has thrived and is as tall as our roof now.
Do you have a favorite flower or plant?
I always look forward to the hydrangeas in June — I just love them. We have many different cultivars in our garden, including mopheads, lacecaps and oakleafs. We also adore Japanese maples and have planted different varieties in every appropriate place. They are beautiful at every season with their myriad of colors. Japanese maples are very expensive, some more than others. One particularly pricey cultivar is the dwarf maple with lacy light green leaves … they grow about 4 feet high and then grow back down to the ground to make a mound shape. I found one in a pot once that was just a little stick priced at $15. I snatched it up, and now it is a perfectly mature dwarf maple in our back garden.
What is your favorite part of your garden?
I love it all really. We planted a small garden outside the kitchen window, street side, and made an alley of hydrangeas. During a good year when they are all blooming, it is just gorgeous. The beauty of woody shrubs is that they do something all year long — they usually bloom in spring or summer and have color in the fall. Fothergilla, for example, puts out 2-inch pussy willow-like catkins in the spring and then its leaves turn golden in the fall. They all have different beauty at different times of year.
What are your favorite memories in the garden?
The times that our whole family have been here together. It is fun to sit out on the patio and watch the children look at the fish in the koi pond. We love dogs, and the children have a ball playing with our dog, Musbe (from “we must be crazy”). It is just so nice to be out in a pretty setting with our family.
Does anyone help you with the upkeep?
Occasionally we have help with the heavy work, but Henley takes care of most of it. He mows and edges, and I do the pruning. Woody shrubs are a lot easier to take care of than perennials now that we are older. They don’t require as much crawling around on your hands and knees!
How much time do you spend in your garden each week?
Not very much. Henley keeps it clean and neat. In the spring there is a lot more work: cleaning the beds, weeding, mulching and pruning. These chores take a lot more time and effort.
What is the hardest part of gardening?
We have learned so much. I can’t count how many times we have wanted a certain plant to thrive in a particular place that we knew wasn’t that plant’s first choice for its home. That simply does not work, and we had to learn the hard way.
What do you love most about gardening?
Henley and I love being outside together weeding, pruning and planting, as well as other gardening chores. It is a wonderful way to appreciate God’s amazing creations. It is also important to me to be able to go outside and cut pretty things for arrangements inside or to share with others. Since our plants are primarily woody shrubs now as well as some very hardy perennials, most of the year there is something there. I really enjoy flower arranging.
Do you have any tips for success?
Be smart and choose the right plant for the right place. Consider how much sun it wants or how much shade it can tolerate. Think about the size of the mature plant, the type of soil it likes. Does it like wet feet? Learn how to properly prune the plant. Plants don’t like to be round or square. Have fun!