Couple gardens for pleasure, health

by Rachel Parker Dickerson

At their home on Greers Ferry Lake, Jim and Darlene Carson have turned their property into an inviting garden filled with trees and featuring several decks.

The couple has been married almost 20 years, and they have lived in their home 15 years. Jim has been gardening most of his life. His mother was a gardener, as was his brother-in-law. When he was in high school, his brother-in-law taught him some things about gardening. While he did have some early influences, he considers himself a self-taught gardener.

Darlene and Jim Carson enjoy the beauty of their home and garden.

Jim was born and raised in California and moved to Arkansas at age 44.

“In California, nothing goes dormant,” he said. He was dismayed when his gardenias and azaleas disappeared with the cycle of the seasons, and he was tearing them out and buying new ones.

“I said, ‘Doesn’t anything grow back here?’” he laughed.

He adapted to the climate in Arkansas, however, and perhaps even came to enjoy it. He appreciates the beauty autumn brings to his garden.

“Seasons change, and all this changes from green to gold and brown,” he said, sitting on a deck overlooking the garden.

Darlene took up gardening when she met her husband. “He has the eye for it more than I do,” she said.

Their wedding was held in the garden he cultivated when he lived in Conway. “It was just beautiful,” Darlene said.

The couple said they garden not only for the pleasure of it, but also for their health.

“At our age, about two hours of gardening and we’re spent,” Darlene said.

The garden is full of wandering paths, made of various types of paving stones. A waterfall the couple built out of natural stone sits beneath a Japanese maple tree. The landscape is broken up by features such as wooden gates and arches and various decks, all of which have lawn furniture inviting a passerby to sit and enjoy the scenery.

Flowers bloom in the Carson garden from spring to summer. Daffodils, irises and azaleas bloom in the spring, followed by geraniums, hydrangeas and several varieties of lilies in the summer. Jim said they also have Lenten roses, which bloom in February. The couple noted their neighbors think it is odd that they have planted many trees on the property, which was forest to begin with. They love the dogwoods and tried not to cut any down when they built the home.

Gardening has its challenges, and in a forested area, animals inevitably appear. The couple said they often lose the fruit of their labor to the likes of deer, groundhogs and moles. A fine net that is invisible from a distance keeps the deer out.

“They love azaleas, and they love roses,” Darlene said of the deer. “They’ll eat roses, thorns and all, to the ground. Groundhogs will eat anything.”

Another challenge is gardening on the side of a hill, they said. The back yard slopes gradually at first. A fence encloses an area that is shaded by trees. Outside the protection of the trees, the slope toward the lake becomes more dramatic.

“That’s why we have so many decks,” Darlene said. Counting, she noted they have six, including one on the back of the house and others placed throughout the property to serve as resting places while strolling the garden.

“In the summertime, every evening we will sit out here. You never get tired of the view,” she said.

The couple expressed the feeling that their trees and plants are almost like children to them.

Jim said, “Every morning and every evening we walk this garden and watch it grow.”