In Lake Forest, a three-time Yard of the Month beckons with charm

By Dooley Berry
Posted 10/10/13

While meandering through the rolling, shady hills of Lake Forest in Daphne, one's attention is drawn to a deeply shaded cottage that is both bright and vibrant in spite of the leafy canopies of many trees.

The pops of colorful design in this cool …

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In Lake Forest, a three-time Yard of the Month beckons with charm

Posted

While meandering through the rolling, shady hills of Lake Forest in Daphne, one's attention is drawn to a deeply shaded cottage that is both bright and vibrant in spite of the leafy canopies of many trees.

The pops of colorful design in this cool green space come from the talent of gardener and former nursery worker Becky Haines. She has been bringing home plants and designing her garden since she and high school sweetheart/husband Dennis moved into their home in 1977.

"I overplant my shady yard so I hopefully always have something blooming," she says.

A large 30-year-old crepe myrtle takes center stage in Becky's garden. She and several neighbors have planted white crape myrtles that greet residents in the median in front of her home.

This adventurous gardener inherited her love of growing in the soil from her dad, who lovingly tended his vegetable garden in Mobile.

"One year, he was too ill to till his garden, so we did it for him,” Becky shares. “My dad grew flowers, vegetables, camellias and nurtured a gigantic fig tree that has outlived him. Although I learned a lot from my dad, we didn't agree on everything. He hated variegated plants, but I love them."

Becky, whose creative designing is quite evident in her garden and in acrylic paintings on display throughout her home and yard, does design work for Hampton Flooring in Fairhope.

Her attractive woodland garden has been most appreciated by her fellow gardeners and neighbors in Lake Forest and was named Yard of the Month three times.

Shade gardening need not be viewed as a deterrent to successful gardening. Over the years and, in Becky's case, decades, her establishment of sheltering boughs, raised beds, and multi-textured foliage plants have melded into an irresistible shady respite in a lovely setting.

Both front and back yards, as well as her side beds, play host to masses of hosta plantings, multi-colored caladiums, Margarita sweet potato vines and one of Becky's favorites, native hydrangeas.

With very little grass in the yard, Becky and Dennis terraced the back yard with railroad ties in 1977 and incorporated raised beds to enhance growing herbs and a few vegetables.

Becky shared a technique in propagating such plants as green onions and celery.

"You cut off the tops and use as usual and save the bottoms to grow new plants," she shares. "I like to experiment when I can with rooting new plants such as begonias. I have started many new plants that way."

Becky has also incorporated a moss garden into her creative outdoor shade canvas.

"You remove moss from under slow growing shrubs, such as camellias or sago palms,” she says. “You collect it, add it to a bucket in which you place beer or buttermilk. Stir it, then spread it out to form a mossy carpet year-round."

She also shares a couple of her successful growing secrets, such as fertilizing her many ferns with epsom salt to perk them right up and using bonemeal on her caladiums to enhance growth.

Just because a yard is in near-constant shade does not mean there aren't lots of unique opportunities and techniques to create an award-winning gardenscape. Becky successfully mingles container gardens, perennial flowers and raised beds into the refreshing, lush shade.

Shrubs, fern varieties, native plants, vines, ornamental grasses, flowering shrubs, hostas and perennial flowers all add color and texture to this shady green environment.

"You don't have to think too much to garden,” Becky says. “I love to water, and one of my favorite things is to have my hose in hand and water my flowers or even the sky. It is very stress-relieving. Even though I have a sprinkler system, I still get out there once a week or so to water, weed and just check everything out. I also love to sweat and garden in a gentle rain. The weeds come out easier, you can more readily spread fertilizer, and you stay cool.”

As Becky Haines' beautifully charming garden proves, a shady area need not be viewed as a hurdle to successful, pleasing vistas. Shade gardening, over the decades under Becky's care, has proven to be an asset that has produced a most attractive outdoor woodland environment, not only for the Haines family, but also for lucky Lake Forest neighbors.