The Times West Virginian

May 9, 2012

Something special

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

PLUM RUN — 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.

From the first blooms on into late fall, her garden at her Plum Run home will be a kaleidoscopic wave of colors, as one perennial blooms and then gives way to another.

This is how she likes it.

But her garden is more than just pretty flowers and greenery.

“It’s a very kid-friendly zone,” she said.

“The more you look, the more you see,” she said. There’s a stone marked “Mom’s garden.” Interspersed throughout the grounds are little statues ... a turtle, a bull, a tea kettle and more.

She’s got the “cabin and the cottage,” mini houses for her grandchildren Levi, 12, and Maggie, 4. Just as the flag is flown over Buckingham Palace when the queen is in residence, when granddaughter Maggie is at her cottage, her very own “fairy flag” is flown.

The back part of the yard is Maggie’s “secret garden” and even has a fire pit for the many cookouts they hold.

Over by the porch is her fairy garden, tricked out in mini houses and fairies.

Toothman relaxes by working in the garden a couple of hours a day and loves to welcome the end of the day by sitting on her back porch, blanketed by the countless flowers blooming in her garden.

“You will not believe what this place will look like in a week or so,” she said. “It will be completely full.”

Buttercups will create a sea of yellow. The baby-soft lamb’s ear will delight the eye with their pink flowers.

She’s lived in Plum Run all her life, “probably within three miles of this place,” she said. She graduated from Farmington High, married Gary Joe Toothman and moved to his home place, where they farm the 85 acres here and the 100-acre “summer home” for their cattle. Their daughter, Amanda McVey, lives in Wirt County and son Mark Toothman lives near Harrisonburg, Va.

What better way to end the day than by sitting on the back porch, facing those rolling 85 acres and listening to the cattle lowing, the birds singing and the creek burbling? Or by watching the deer bound across the pasture and ducks floating down the creek?

Toothman got her love of gardening from her mother, Leota Glover.

“She could grow anything,” Toothman said. “I’d seen her take a potato and turn it into a house plant.”

That’s why she likes growing flowers.

“I like to take something and make it into something special. And I enjoy puttering around. It’s just so peaceful here.

“In two weeks, there will be such a change. And then, two weeks after that, and after that. What was blooming is finished and the new will start.

“You can see the fence post right now, but in three weeks, the bushes will grow so that you won’t be able to see the fence line. It will be completely covered with blooms.”

She’s not the only one who enjoys her garden. It has its four-footed admirers as well.

“Deer? You just have to grin and bear it. But I’ve got a funny story about ground moles. It’s a war every summer and so far, they’ve won. I’m not even close. But I read once in a magazine they hate mothballs.

“So I bought me a big ol’ box of mothballs and poked them into all these little tunnels.

“The next morning, it looked like it had hailed! They had spit out these mothballs all over my front yard! I got the biggest laugh out of this. So, no, I’m not even close to winning the battle.”

She laughed.

Her yard will soon be a riot of color courtesy of the many coleus, clematis, trumpet vine, buttercups and more.

She likes perennials.

“They’re my old standbys. I don’t fuss with them. If they come back, I am blessed. And if they don’t, I move on to something else.”

Not everything will grow. She doesn’t have much luck with roses and one angel trumpet from the south just didn’t cotton to West Virginia’s cold winters.

“I stagger my plants so I try to have something blooming all the time,” she said. “Except this freeze wiped me out.”

She’s worried some of her flowers won’t be back because of the cold snap.

“At one time, when there was a sawmill, you could get a truckload of mulch for $5. I mean, I was just in heaven. Boy did I hate to see that sawmill go out of business.”

She doesn’t know the names of all her flowers, though.

“This big bush here will be solid white. I don’t know its name. It’s just a white bush,” she said with a laugh.

“I would have no idea how many bushes or flowers I have,” she said.

Some plants she’s bought. Others are gifts, or “transplants,” as she calls them.

“I’m always looking for something new when we go to a garden center,” she said. She’s eager to plant the seeds for her newest find: a fuzzy sunflower.

Every Wednesday through June, Take 5 will be strolling through our readers’ lush gardens. To have yours featured, contact Debbie Wilson at 394-367-2549 or

Email Debra Minor Wilson at