Originally created 11/15/02

Seasonal change



Johanna and Clarence Shorter's yard is ready for winter, but a few flowers linger amid the dying vines and memories of a garden laid by.

Overgrown pentas still bloom in the butterfly garden, surrounded by now-dormant Stella D'Oro lilies, in the front yard of the Shorters' house on Gardners Mill Road in west Augusta.

"I love birds, and I planted everything for hummingbirds and butterflies," said Mrs. Shorter. "All these lantanas are for the hummingbirds and butterflies."

Twin planters in front of the house also signal the changing seasons. Pumpkins and fall flowers will soon give way to a Thanksgiving decoration.

"I had zinnias in here, so I thought I'd take the pumpkins out and have the leaves and flowers for Thanksgiving, and for Christmas I put Christmas decorations out," she said.

She has cut back the red, white and blue clematis that bloomed on the side of the house until late fall, but a lantana at the corner now tops five feet. Most of the perennials in beds in the back yard also have died back, but some of the hydrangeas in a bank along the side yard have begun to bloom again.

Mrs. Shorter works with the flowers, and Mr. Shorter does everything else.

When a large magnolia tree in the back yard had to be removed, exposing Mrs. Shorter's shade garden to the sun, he built arbors to protect the plantings.

He does such a good job of keeping the yard in order, some folks want to hire him to do theirs.

"In fact, there's been some women that come along and want to hire me," he said. "They said, 'Do you do yard work for other people?' I said, 'No."'

After the couple bought the house 7 1/2 years ago, Mr. Shorter cut down 22 pine trees in the back yard. Some were replaced with Bradford pear and maple trees.

There's one thing he can't do in the yard, however.

"My wife won't let me touch the flowers," he said.

"I don't want him to cut anything," she said.

The couple met in her native Germany when Mr. Shorter was in the Army. He retired from the military in 1971 and from the Medical College of Georgia in 1990. Mrs. Shorter worked part time at University Hospital for 17 years.

Their yard is decorated with birdhouses and feeders, the fruits of one of Mr. Shorter's pastimes - garage sales.

Bluebirds raise two broods a year in the bird house at the front of the yard, and chickadees live in a brown and white house with a spindled porch railing in the back yard.

"I had sunflowers in here, and we had American goldfinch," Mrs. Shorter said, standing by the flower bed in the back yard. "They eat the sunflower when it's soft before it gets hard," she said.

"We have bluebirds, yellow birds, all kind of birds" he said.

"There's my little Carolina wren," she said, as a bird chirped loudly in a nearby magnolia.

Next spring, the Shorters plan to expand the backyard flower bed where a deep purple butterfly bush still bloomed and a rosemary plant had grown several feet high.

"I'll tell you one thing," he said. "It's a full-time job."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.