A stroll through Henry and Karen Oliver's garden is more like a hike.
The Olivers' North Augusta property includes an orchard, vegetable garden, grape arbor, pool area and a large woodland garden. Half of the 7-acre grounds is landscaped.The Olivers' gardening adventure began 31/2 years ago when they bought their home on Sedgewood Court. No one had lived in the home for two years, so the landscape was growing wild. They pulled layers of pine straw from azalea beds, grapevines from the treetops and ivy from almost everything.
"I'm addicted to flowers," said Mrs. Oliver, a master gardener. "My husband has become almost as big an addict as I am. He always kind of put up with my hobby, but he never really understood it until we got started over here with our projects."
The gardens are still works in progress, but the landscape will never be completed because a garden is never finished, Mrs. Oliver said.
A small rose garden near the house occupies the only sunny area and contains pink, white, yellow, peach and red roses. Mrs. Oliver preserved her late mother's irises, ferns and gladiolas and planted them around the roses.
A hand-laid stone path leads to the fenced vegetable garden. Its entrance arbors support climbing new dawn rose, kiwi and clematis vines. The Olivers cultivate vegetables, including asparagus, tomatoes, bush beans, three kinds of peppers, squash, zucchini, eggplant, collard greens and cucumbers, in addition to herbs rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano. They also grow cool-season vegetables in winter.
Behind the vegetable garden is an orchard. Mrs. Oliver frequently makes jellies and preserves from the fruit of the two pear, three apple, three plum, two peach and several fig trees.
When the Olivers moved in, most of the trees were not bearing fruit because of a lack of pruning. The Olivers spent three years rejuvenating them through selective pruning and will harvest a lot of produce this season.
Many of the landscape bushes have been shear-pruned, which stimulates a lot of growth and can make a plant hard to control.
"We went through about a year of a real ugly period while letting these sheared bushes grow out," Mrs. Oliver said, "but now we've got them under control."
Mrs. Oliver said her husband has a knack for structural pruning. He has pruned the logustrum by the pool, allowing sunlight through so that she can hang her orchids in the tree crown for some summer sun.
The woodland garden began as a clump of woods. A dirt road that had been used during construction of the house made for a nice path into and through the garden. The many large trees keep the garden cool and shady.
The Olivers planted bamboo and large shrubbery, including camellias, tea olives, yellow dogwoods and Formosa azaleas, around the woodland garden perimeter for screening.
Much of the landscape is separated into distinct beds. The St. Francis garden features a statue of the saint. A shelter for the statue is planned, but it is surrounded by snowball viburnum, artemesia, tagetes, bamboo and a scarlet willow. The small willow is contorted - one of Mrs. Oliver's favorite plant shapes.
"I love twisted things," she said. "I really love contorted plants and am looking forward to them maturing on in."
Mr. Oliver likes maples. Most are in the woodland garden and include trident, coral bark, paper bark, butterfly and lace leaf maple trees. Mr. Oliver also has his own section of the garden, where he planted hostas and toad lilies with a granite boulder water feature.
The Olivers have applied to have their yard certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. No pesticides are allowed in the yard: Only insecticidal soap is used to battle infestations.
"I would rather have a little bit of ugly foliage than think I'm killing the butterflies that I am trying hard to protect," Mrs. Oliver said.
She built the cedar potting shed with guidance from a neighbor, a retired builder. It took her six weeks but was well worth the work. With double glass doors, large windows on all sides, a potting sink and ramp for the wheelbarrow, it is her retreat.
Just outside, the Olivers installed a water fountain disguised in and protected by a stump "because it is a long hike back to the house. It's one of my favorite things out here."
The Olivers have many more garden additions planned, including two ponds with streams and tons more plants.
"Keeping up with this yard is a challenge," Mrs. Oliver said. "But we just have to plan."
Reach Valerie Rowell at (706) 823-3351 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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