Carol Washington's home near Birmingham sits in a suburban neighborhood of manicured lawns, and her house is not so different from the others. However, front flower borders hint of something special waiting for folks who stop to explore. Carol will occasionally open her garden to visitors, and I was happy to attend a garden party at her house this past weekend.
Some friends and I had parked the car and were perusing plants for sale under a tree when Carol hurried toward us and welcomed us, smiling and talking and hugging us all. Rain was predicted and clouds were building, but it couldn't rain on Carol's party. She wouldn't let it, and it didn't.
Behind Carol's house, paths and terraces descend toward a creek, and I immediately noticed roses cascading down the hillside and an iron arbor near the bottom. There was so much to take in, with plants teeming over the soil and climbing heavenward and more flowers erupting out of containers of every sort, from elegant urns to humble plastic pots from the discount store. It is a garden of exuberance and joy, with a personality just like its maker's.
We spent several hours exploring Carol's garden, and that was not enough. The tapestry of plants was mesmerizing.
Like every great garden, this one has places to sit and enjoy the scenery. Carol has a multi-level deck and garden house, with chairs and tables to accommodate visitors. Other benches and chairs are tucked along the garden paths. My friends and I found a spot on the deck's lower level. We ate pound cake and watermelon and drank pink lemonade. Kenny G. music played in the background. Eventually someone handed me another drink.
"What's in this?" I asked.
"I don't know," the lady said, "But it's good."
It was fruity and mildly spiked, probably with wine. Then came fried green tomatoes. The tomatoes were freshly picked from Carol's vegetable plot and fried to perfection by our hostess. You know you are in the South when you bite into those tangy tomatoes with crunchy cornmeal coating.
As I sipped my punch, I admired some nearby statuary. There are a variety of lovely pieces throughout her garden, and it was fun finding them nestled amidst the plants.
It was a garden party done right, complete with door prizes and plants for sale at extremely reasonable prizes. You had to be careful. If Carol saw you admiring a particular plant, she would likely just give it to you. I came away with moon vine, voodoo plant (it has a creepy, smooth trunk that looks like snakeskin), a variegated pittosporum, and some four-o'clocks. These plants are at home with me now, and they will hold happy memories of Carol Washington and her garden.