Imagine strolling through winding pathways weaved among charming beds dotted with vibrant daylilies and numerous other alluring plants and flowers. This picturesque terrain, located at the home of Gail and Wayne Buff in Lexington, is Secluded Gardens, their two-and-a-half-acre manicured yard that offers a tranquil escape for whoever desires it.
“The best part of our garden is sharing it with other people,” Wayne says as Gail nods. “But on hot summer days, the best part is the shade!” she emphasizes.
This gracious couple typically hosts between 300 and 400 visitors per year, the majority flocking to Secluded Gardens in the spring during daylily blooming season. A popular attraction is the Daylily Open House, a weekend when the garden is open to everyone, as well as a workshop. Additionally, customers of Wingard’s Nursery visit the garden to get an idea of what the plants look like in an actual garden setting. The nursery also uses Secluded Gardens for workshops and special events. In return, Wingard’s provides annual and perennial flowers, fertilizer, irrigation, a tractor and dirt.
Wingard’s Nursery was started by Marjorie and Judson Wingard, Gail’s parents, as a backyard hobby 46 years ago. “They started the nursery as a part-time venture after I left home for Greenville Hospital Nursing School,” Gail says. “Today Delores, my sister, and Wally Steinhauser, her husband, own it.”
Judson’s passion for gardening, coupled with his entrepreneurial spirit, influenced Gail and Wayne’s attitude towards Secluded Gardens. “Gail’s dad is why this family is geared towards gardening,” says Wayne. The nursery even has succeeded in luring the teenaged Wingard grandchildren into accepting summer jobs, although from their time working for the nursery, the Buffs’ sons Elliot and Ryan learned only that they would never work in the un-airconditioned summer heat again.
Unlike their sons, Gail and Wayne are not scared off by South Carolina’s scorching sun. “The sun plays a key role in how a garden evolves,” Gail says. “The nature of a garden is to change.”
Gail and Wayne have weathered various curve balls mother nature has thrown at them in order to craft their haven. “Years ago, an ice storm devastated the pine trees that were in our yard; consequently, Gail and I had to redesign our plan for a garden,” Wayne says. “You have to work with nature’s elements.”
Secluded Gardens is now composed of numerous flowerbeds where Gail and Wayne have planted seeds of their unique personalities. Gail enjoys adding artistic flairs of yard artwork, including sculptures, paintings and hidden objects. “I like to put little things here and there to create surprises, so some people find them and some don’t. That’s fun,” she says.
Gail is also an expert at transforming useless objects into pieces of beauty. She points to a magnificent fountain with blue hydrangeas cascading down its side. “Someone returned it to Wingard’s because it is broken, but I knew I could find a place for it.” She points out numerous other objects throughout her garden that were mere waste before she recycled them into striking works of art. One particular piece was crafted for Wayne’s birthday. “Wayne told me not to spend any money on him for his birthday, so I gathered various old pieces of rust and made faces,” Gail says. “My neighbor helped me weld the pieces together.”
“Gardening is a stress relief and a creative outlet,” she shares. “You have to think outside of the box.”
While Gail delights in fulfilling her artistic interests, Wayne enjoys creating enticing attractions for various birds. Numerous picturesque birdfeeders, hung throughout the garden, host chattering feathered creatures. Wayne points out a stone with the inscription, “Concert in the garden. Come early.” “There are always birds singing,” he says.
Wayne also takes pride in the historical wood that decorates Secluded Gardens. “Stumps were left behind when timber was harvested from the property in the 1920s. There were dozens of stumps in the ground, unmovable, and even more stumps in piles on the property,” he explains.
Despite his initial frustration with the problematic wood, Wayne quickly realized its value. “What seemed like a detriment at first turned into a unique aspect that sets our garden apart,” he says, acknowledging the historical link and the timeless beauty that the wood provides. “We made flower beds around some and others were moved to become borders, backdrops or integral parts of the flower beds.”
One gnarly stump has roots that climb upward toward the sky, completing the rustic scenery in a barnyard bed – a flowerbed that is a reflection of the original use of the land as a farm complete with a mule, cow, pigs and chickens. “The barnyard bed and the old wood connect back to what this area used to be,” says Wayne.
The Buffs also set their garden apart by nurturing more than 450 named daylily cultivars. These exotic flowers grab immediate attention, literally sparkling while basking in the sunlight among the other flowers. “It’s called diamond dusting when they glisten in the sun,” Gail says. She offers a helpful tip. “The daylily needs water more than fertilizer. All plants require water, but the daylilies do especially.”
While sharing instructions regarding daylily upkeep, Gail and Wayne proceed to divulge other gardening tips. “Don’t be afraid to try new things; don’t be afraid to fail,” Gail says. “Join some type of gardening group to learn more about gardening and to become involved with others who share similar interests.” Wayne adds, “Large pots have become popular. They are a good way to add color and height into your garden.”
Gail and Wayne have a passion for sharing joy with others. It is an energy that readily translates into their gardening. The simple happiness that they experience while gardening is shared with visitors, who find the Buffs’ enthusiasm to be contagious. Gail says, “You can always find an unexpected surprise in Secluded Gardens.”