The Times West Virginian

June 13, 2012

Hanging out

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Nothing quite says “We have kids” like the good old jungle gym in the backyard.

And nothing quite says “Our kids are grown” like that really old jungle gym in the backyard.

You could dismantle it and throw it away. You could find someone who could use it.

Or you could do what Dr. Ron Pearse has done. You could create your own hanging garden.

“When the kids got older, I took the slide off and a few other accoutrements,” he said. “I had to keep the rocky-looking walkway because I have to walk up it to get to the flowers to water them.

“People probably don’t know what to do with these things,” he said.

The former redwood playset is now festooned with clematis, ferns, impatiens, double petunias, ornamental sweet potato vines, clover bush, periwinkle and more.

“I love flowers. It was here and now I don’t have to deal with it. This is unique. I take plants from here and there. Now, those lamb’s ears I don’t remember planting. They either came here by seed or I planted something else and there they are!” he laughed.

A family of wrens lives in the birdhouse. They don’t seem to mind Pearse at all.

“I’ll be watering the plants and they’ll come over to me. They don’t get too distressed. I guess they’re used to me.

“I’m a saver. These mums are from last fall. Most people throw them away. I try to save them. At my office, I have a poinsettia flower that has remained red for over a year. I keep it in the office and take it outside, and it’s still red.

“Every year I add something different. The hanging baskets, I’m stuck with the typical hanging flowers like petunias.

“People tell me if I stuck a broomstick in the ground, it would probably flower,” he said with a chuckle.

The jungle gym is at least 15 years old, he said.

“We moved here in ’96, and my father-in-law and my wife’s nephew picked it up and brought it here. Two, three years ago I converted it into landscaping.”

Just across from it is the swingset, now kind of lonely looking.

Right now, it’s got one of those upside-down tomato growers on it. But Pearse has plans to convert it into a pergola, an Oriental-looking arbor or gazebo.

Tucked away in another corner of the yard is his vegetable and herb garden, filled with lettuce, basil, oregano and other greens.

He also grows herbs in the basement during winter.

But he doesn’t do the typical peppers and tomatoes. He did a couple of times, though.

“The deer ate them,” he said. “Up until this Saturday, this one area was all petunias and impatiens. I got up Saturday and there were no petunias. I knew where they went.

“You can see how the deer have eaten the hostas. They ate the impatiens clear down to the root.”

Tending to a garden is calming, he said.

“When I stress out, I go over to (a local nursery),” he said.

“It can be stress relieving. I always cook every night and then I go to the garden to pick the lettuce and onions. Later I come out here and trim.

“Six years ago I did that little piece over there where the dogwood tree and astilbe plants are. I prefer perennials, obviously, because they require less work.”

He has big plans for the landscape.

“One year I’m just gonna dig it all up and make it one big landscape with islands of plants.”

For now, he’s savoring every second he can spend in his garden.

“But come February, March, I get the urge and start things in the house and bring them out. I plant my lettuce the first week of March. People think I’m nuts but I can’t wait to get out in it.

“Gambling establishments have this arrangement where you can sign a paper saying do not let me in. And once you sign it, they’re obligated.

“I told the people (at the nursery) I wanted them to sign this paper and do not let me in!” he laughed.

Every Wednesday through June, Take 5 will be strolling through our readers’ lush gardens. To have yours featured, contact Debbie Wilson at 304-367-2549 or

Email Debra Minor Wilson at