The Times West Virginian

My Garden

June 6, 2012

Teetotal sanctuary

FAIRMONT — A couple of years ago, Anita Stevens probably couldn’t tell a rose from a rhododendron.

That changed when a friend suggested putting in a little flower bed.

“And that’s all it took,” Stevens said. “One thing led to another and I went out of control. Now Shawn (her husband) says if I make another flower bed, he’s gonna disown me!” she laughed.

“Now I can tell you what flowers are what, where they’re supposed to go and all that,” she said proudly.

Her gardens are more than dirt and flowers.

“They’re my getaway. I never thought I’d be saying that!”

And she doesn’t have a patch of petunias here and bed of begonias there. Her gardens are eye-catching statements of space and form.

Like the elegant garden transformed from an “eyesore of weeds and trees and everything” partly on a neighbor’s property. She asked permission to work with it and turned it into a restful spot with flowers and Adirondack chairs.

“It’s amazing what I’ve learned,” she said. She now knows where plants grow best, which need more sun or water, what kind of food they need. Garden-y things like that.

“Not all plants are treated alike,” she said. “I had a hydrangea on one side of the house. It had the most beautiful green foliage, but it never bloomed. I moved it to the other side, where it got more sun, and it finally bloomed.

“Your garden is your personality. Every rock in my flower beds I’ve dug up in my yard. Every stone, big or small.”

She designs her gardens herself, she said, getting ideas from magazines or sometimes just moving things around a little.

“It’s fun,” she said.

“The long garden with the stacking pots was teetotally just trees, woods, poison ivy and everything. My husband and I just started to clean it up, and one thing led to another.”

She tried a wildflower garden once.

“I wasn’t into that at all. You couldn’t see anything. I like each plant to be by itself so you can see it.”

Neighbors would use a path to walk to the park. She saw a beautiful garden waiting to be born. She asked the neighbor permission to cut down the growth and planted some bushes.

As she likes to say, one thing led to another, and soon she’d put in an old bench, some leftover landscape timbers and flower bed rocks.

“It was hard work but satisfaction,” she said. Toss in some chairs and it’s the perfect place to drink her coffee and listen to the birds.

“You can’t even imagine I live in city limits. It’s really so quiet,” she said.

The stacking pots “are the neatest thing,” she said. “My husband cut down a tree, and I got tired of looking at the stump. I got a drill bit, cut a hole in the trunk, put in a bamboo stake and stacked my pots.

“It makes a very nice focal point for people to see,” she said.

She gets her stuff where she can: rocks from Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission’s nearby East Marion Park, landscape lumber from wherever, rocks from her own yard.

One garden is graced by an arbor, Adirondack chairs and a burning bush “that started out so little and now it’s big as all get out.”

Some people have gardens that cling to fences or houses. Stevens’ gardens boldly sit out in the middle of her yard, creating little spots to sit and drink in the sights and sounds of the outdoor life surrounding her.

“My gardens are my sanctuary,” she said. “It’s the gratification of seeing something you’ve planted growing from one year to the next.

“The most enjoyable thing is when you divide and give a plant out of your garden to somebody.”

If she gives you a flower, don’t say “thank you.”

“You’re supposed to say, ‘I’ll take care of it.’ It’s an old wives’ tale. I think because the flower is a gift to you and hopefully it will come back from year to year.”

That’s what she wants to hear when she gives flowers away.

“It’s the gratification of seeing how beautiful your gardens are.”

She’s always looking for something different for the garden.

“My son and husband get mad at me when I’m not here because they have to water the flowers. And the pots. That takes a lot of time. There are pots galore all over the place.

“Some people like to run or do aerobics. That’s their time. This is my time. I like to sit and watch the birds and the deer walking through the yard. If you see my dog, Sadiegirl, outside, you know I’m working in the garden.”

This allows her to move things around from year to year.

“I’ll look at pictures and decide what I need to get rid of or give to somebody,” she said.

 Shawn complimented her raised annual garden the other day, she said.

“We’d bought mulch for it, and he looked at it and said it really looks nice. I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’

“I’m hoping I’m done for the year,” she said, laughing.

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

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My Garden
  • kim.wilson.deb.jpg A tranquil escape

    Kimberly Wilson’s yard is much more than a garden.
    With its terraced slopes, shade trees and bright flowers, it’s a tranquil escape from the pressures of the world.
    You don’t even have to go to the patio with the park bench overlooking the front of the property.

    June 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • Marjorie Cipollone Delightful koi pond

    Marjorie Cipollone likes pretty things.
    Like the multi-colored day lilies that circle the pond in her front yard.
    Or the two-tiered waterfall and the water that cascades from it in gentle burbles and bubbles.

    June 20, 2012 2 Photos

  • pearse-vine.deb.jpg Hanging out

    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.

    June 13, 2012 2 Photos

  • stevens.jpg Teetotal sanctuary

    A couple of years ago, Anita Stevens probably couldn’t tell a rose from a rhododendron.
    That changed when a friend suggested putting in a little flower bed.
    “And that’s all it took,” Stevens said.

    June 6, 2012 1 Photo

  • Jackie Straight A work of love

    Flowers have a BFF in Jackie Straight.
    Her home outside Rivesville is the perfect place to slow down, drink in the perfume of blooming flowers, listen to singing birds and dream of summer and its bounty of blossoms and fruit.

    May 30, 2012 3 Photos

  • connie.jpg Spring’s showstoppers


    Call them what you want, but for Connie Ahrens, peonies — spring’s original old-timey showstoppers — evoke memories of her grandfather Dan Steiniger.
    “There was this big peony at his house, and I could not pass it without sticking my face in it when I was a kid. I just had to inhale that amazing fragrance,” she said."

    May 23, 2012 1 Photo

  • Pond Country perfection

    Some houses are just made for the country.
    They look vibrant surrounded by the bright colors of spring.
    They’re enveloped by the lush greens of summer.

    May 16, 2012 2 Photos

  • toothman, judy.jpg Something special

    Right now, Judy Toothman’s garden is just getting started.
    But just you wait.
    “In a couple of weeks, it will be something special,” she promised.
    The black-eyed Susans are already popping up. Day lilies are primping and preening to make their special appearance.

    May 9, 2012 1 Photo

  • Ed Cheslock Turns out fine

    Even though Ed Cheslock grew up on a 75-acre farm near Laurel Point, he didn’t exactly love gardening.
    “Because we had to do it,” he said.

    May 2, 2012 2 Photos

  • Mary Whyte A fine ‘mess’

    It’s good to dig in the dirt.
    “It eases your mind,” said Mary Whyte.
    “It doesn’t do anything for my fingernails! But they’ll outgrow it,” she added, laughing.
    In her little garden right off the back porch of her 100-year-old home, she grows just enough for a dinner or two at a time.

    April 25, 2012 2 Photos

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