“My mother’s garden was anywhere she wanted it to be,” Mary Tribble reminisces, standing in her childhood yard.
The manicured landscape hugs the corner of the white stucco home, bordering the driveway with potted plant displays and blooming hydrangeas. The backyard plunges down a steep hill into a thick cluster of trees, which creates a mountain-house ambiance.
The house, surrounded by thriving greenery and vibrant flowers, provides a timeless home for Mary. Adolescent memories of plucking ripe figs from the backyard tree combine with adult memories of supervising her young children’s campouts. As a child, Mary appreciated Edna Ratterree’s green thumb and was enthralled with the aesthetic beauty her mother created. “She could garden anything! She would pick something up from people’s trash piles and coax it to grow and turn green,” shares Mary. “She loved being outside and noticed all aspects of nature.”
Mary upholds the integrity of Edna’s garden by implementing her passion for a specific gardening aspect — potted arrangements. Accentuating the structural layout of Mary’s garden, the eclectic variety of potted plants adds a controlled element of color. Tucked in the backdoor corner, pink geraniums pop beside the white wall. Other displays contain white flora, such as Mandevilla, contrasting against the base greenery. “I love creating flower and plant designs in the garden pots — probably because I can control it!” Mary says with a laugh. “I tend to overstuff pots, but I like them really full.”
Mary’s first step in designing a pot entails choosing a base plant or plants depending on the box size. She favors planting at least one evergreen that flourishes all year. This creates a buffer against the seasonal plant changes, preventing the pot arrangement from overwhelming Mary during weather transformation.
Around the evergreens, Mary places seasonal flowers, such as impatiens in the summer and pansies or violas in the fall. “I am partial to planting similar colors. I keep the color scheme simple,” she shares. “I also enjoy placing plants with pleasant aromas near my door. I love the fragrance and beauty of different blooms.”
Mary continues to note the importance of quality soil and drainage while also expanding upon the peculiarities of sunlight. Heeding the quantity of sunlight hitting a pot affects plant choice. “Some of my pots are half and half — one side is shady while the other is sunny. I have to plant different plants on different sides,” Mary tells.
She also delights in her vibrant hydrangeas dotting the landscape boarder. Purple and blue blooms add a blast of color among the neutral crape myrtle bark surrounded by green vegetation. The majority of French hydrangeas reflect the pH level of the surrounding soil through the blossom’s color. Mary’s mix of hydrangea color indicates not only strong acidic soil but also neutral soil. “Hydrangeas are my favorite flower due to their beauty and complexity,” says Mary. “I’ve heard that if I mix my used coffee grinds in the soil, the hydrangeas’ blooms become a shade of pink/purple … how neat!”
Window boxes line rectangular glass panes throughout the home’s exterior. A prominent, wooden window box hung with wrought iron brackets stretches the full length of the kitchen double windowpane overlooking the front yard. This kitchen box is a gardening link, untouched by time, between Edna and Mary. As a child, Mary enjoyed the product of Edna’s gardening labor — blooming plant designs overflowing out of the window box. “My mother loved any kind of plant. She would grow flowers from seed or cultivate a plant someone gave her,” tells Mary. “She just had a green thumb and loved it!”
Now, Mary pours energy into the same window display project in order to enhance the home’s beauty for her family. She continues her color scheme of white flowers and green vegetation, a striking contrast against the black, cast iron box. “I have the advantage of buying plants already grown up from seeds; however, there are times I have planted seeds with success, growing them up in small containers in our sunroom and then planting them outside,” Mary shares. “My mother did not have the accessibility of plants and flowers like I have today.”
Mary and Reid, her husband, settled into her childhood home after Reid completed his residency in 1995. After the move, Mary and Reid tweaked aspects of the house, implementing their personal styles into the décor and exterior while also gradually redesigning the garden’s structure. “The house is a work in progress. When I was young, the home did not flow into a backyard terrace, and the white wall separating the container garden from the untamed backyard hill did not exist,” says Mary.
The couple changed the landscape during the house renovation, creating boundaries for a structured garden. For Mary, this polished design serves a dual purpose. The crisp borders not only create a refined garden but also block Santee and Saluda, two rambunctious Labradors, from havocking the manicured area. “Because our dogs tear up the yard, they rearranged our plans and helped develop the landscape design,” Mary tells.
With the help of Trent Hutchinson with Blue Moon Landscaping, Mary maintains her garden by spending time pruning, watering or weeding each day. Burrowing her hands in the cool soil and clipping back undesirable plants provides Mary with peace and joy. “My garden is a gift and a blessing. It is always here — never judging or retorting,” she says.
Gardening in her childhood home also creates a connection for Mary with Edna. Repeating the simple steps Edna completed in the same garden attaches special significance to the, otherwise, monotonous chores. Mary shares, “I miss my mother, but not in her garden — she is everywhere.”