Gardener's irises have family roots

Some might hope to inherit Grandma's jewels, but Helen Turnage has a living legacy from one of her grandmothers -- velvet, deep purple irises that are the crown jewel of her garden.


The flowers were first planted in 1917 in her grandmother's garden. Mrs. Turnage is the third generation to grow the irises and plans on passing the flowers to her children and grandchildren.

The irises are the focal point of the garden, which contains several beds that follow a meandering old brick border, fading from full sun to shade, offering options for every kind of plant.

One bed has stonework designed by Jeff Tilden, a master gardener who helps Mrs. Turnage plan and plant her garden. Next to the stonework are crabapple trees, which will eventually serve as "windows" for the irises, an example of how the garden changes from year to year.

"It's like watching a child grow -- I just hope it never gets to be a teenager," she jokes.

Gardening is a hobby she had the opportunity to fully utilize when she and her husband moved into their house on Glenn Avenue three years ago, making her garden roughly the age of a toddler.

Despite its newness, the garden was one of nine chosen for the recent tour that was part of the Sacred Heart Garden Festival.

She attributes her green-thumbed success to getting the right soil and help from the right people, Mr. Tilden and the staff at Bedford Nurseries.

Right now, the dominant colors in the garden are purple and yellow.

"The garden changes -- it'll be different in a month," Mrs. Turnage said. "That's what I wanted, continuous color."

Other beds include a petal garden, a shady bed filled with 25-year-old ferns, and a bed of thin cedars and irises and a bird bath. Potted plants and window boxes adorn the front and back porches.

The garden may contain an abundance of greenery but there's also room for her grandchildren to play. "You want (everyone) to be able to enjoy the garden," she said.

Reach Sarah Day Owen at (706) 823-3223 or


WHO: Helen Turnage

WHERE: Jack and Helen Turnage's Summerville home

GARDEN SIZE: 100 feet long and 10 to 12 feet wide

GARDENING PHILOSOPHY: "You feel close to the earth, close to God, it brings me peace," she said.

FUN FACT: Civil War-era artifacts were dug up on the Turnages' property.



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