It is the luckiest day in the life of any living thing that finds its way into JoAnn Paxton’s life or landscape. As I walked through her one acre property, birds feasted on sunflowers that self-seed every year beside the bird feeders, hummingbirds darted from their feeders to flowers, squirrels scurried from branch to branch, and Buster (the stray cat she nursed back to health) watched me suspiciously from the deck.
I have known JoAnn since I was born. JoJo is my sister. Besides caring for animals in need (including stray dogs and cats, possums, raccoons, deer and even baby pigs that fall off trucks on the road behind her home), she is a gardener.
She gardens for the pure joy of it – the joy of eating fresh fruit and vegetables; the joy of getting a workout while moving wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of wood chips and rocks; and the joy of watching plants grow and flowers bloom.
A recycler and upcycler long before it was in vogue, her garden is a lesson in rescue, reuse and renewal, and of course, great gardening practices learned from our parents.
Her vegetable garden is huge. Cool season crops have all been harvested so the garden now hosts several varieties of tomatoes, peppers and onions. A strawberry patch of everbearing varieties is still producing juicy treats.
Gourds and pumpkins grow on lush vines started from seeds saved from my fall decorations the year before. Most of her vegetables were started from seed in late winter or sown directly in the garden.
Sunflowers self-seed themselves year after year. The birds love them as much as she does.
She saves my straw bales after they are no longer needed in fall displays and then recycles them the next year as mulch in her vegetable garden.
JoJo and her husband love to relax around a fire at the end of the day. A large blue spruce, a vine-covered trellis, shrubs and large perennials create a private outdoor room.
A gargoyle stands guard.
In the front yard, perennials are the stars of the landscape. Some plants are divisions of perennials from our mother’s garden, but most are castaways from my gardens – the plants that didn’t make the cut of a tough love gardener. Whenever I am dissatisfied with perennials or need to make room for new plants, I feel better knowing I am not sentencing them to death but sending them to the land of JoJo where, just like the Island of Misfit Toys, there is always room for one more.
The front and side borders, backed by a split rail fence, are filled with summer-blooming perennials like daylilies, black-eyed Susans, and balloon flowers. Tiger lilies punctuate the scene. Their vibrant color brightens the daily walks of neighbors.
And there are flowers – lots of flowers.
JoJo’s garden inspires me. I admire the way she has created her landscape without spending a lot of money. I am in awe of her willingness to take discards and ability to put them together in beautiful combinations. Her love of nature knows no bounds.
Would you like to share your garden with others? Just send me an email. I would love to photograph and write about it. Garden with me!