Wednesday, September 16, 2009

an unexpected garden tour

On Tuesday, I took my lunch in the car. I do not usually do this, but I was on a mission to find a gardener. Not just any gardener. I was looking for someone with a big loud crazy bunch of flowers, succulents, topiary, or statues in the yard. I was looking for an interview subject for an article I am writing about pass-along plants. I slowed down past several houses in Old West Durham and Trinity Park but it didn’t look like anyone was in their yards or on their front porches. With my lunch break winding down, I drove through the Burch Avenue neighborhood and made notes about houses and gardens I would like to visit sometime. I saw bold sunflowers beside the sidewalk, long mantles of clematis vines, plenty of canna lilies, and heaps of the not-so-precise cottage garden style that I love to rave about. But no one was toiling in the noon-time sun. So I made up my mind to hit Arnette Avenue where I had been planning to drive by a corner property for some time.

As I pulled up to the incredible yard and garden in Durham’s Morehead Hill neighborhood, I realized I was in luck. The resident gardener was in. His name is Angel Redoble, owner of a landscape design business named Angelscapes. Immediately he took me into the complex and serene world of his garden as if he had been expecting me.

It was wonderful. Angel’s lot has a koi pond that he hand-dug after hurricane Fran took down a large oak tree in 1996. He finished it in four days as a birthday present for his wife. He has named each of the big fish. This water feature is covered with netting to keep two things at bay-falling leaves and a blue heron, both of which should return to his urban property in the next month or two.

We talked about plants and the business of landscape design. I asked him some questions about favorite flowers, but I became distracted by all the sights in his garden- a statue made from a tree trunk; a row of purple crape-myrtles; the three and a half foot tall spikes of something I’ve heard called jiso, akajiso, Chinese basil, and wild basil. Angel calls it red basil. It self-sows, tastes good in salads, and looks like a bushy coleus. Coincidentlly, the day before, a co-worker had "passed along" this plant (perilla frutescens) for planting in my garden.

I had to leave too soon. But I left with Angel’s card and gave him mine. I also gave him a promise to return. His place is glorious in the springtime. I know because he showed me pictures and because I’ve driven by before, wondering who lived in that old house with the traffic-stopping yard. Now I know and now I have at least one more person to swap plants and stories with.

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