By Karin Glendenning
Community News Writer
Dorothy Johnson learned about gardening from her father, who owned two greenhouses on Browntown Road when she was growing up. She has put that knowledge to good use in the lovely garden that surrounds her Falling Water home.
“I’ve always mowed the lawn and am still doing it,” Mrs. Johnson said. She also keeps up her mother-in-law’s home next door.
Since her husband, Larry, died last year, she has had total responsibility for her large lot, but she said it’s her therapy to work in the yard. “I get up early every morning and read my Bible and then exercise and go out to work in the yard.”
“Larry always said he kept me in good equipment,” she said. Her sons, Greg and Chris, who live with their families nearby, continue their father’s tradition and recently gave their mother a new riding mower. Her daughter, Julie, lives in Atlanta, and Mrs. Johnson visits her often.
Mrs. Johnson said she has always loved to garden. She has planted lots of trees, commemorating special events in the lives of her family throughout the yard. “We always plant trees on anniversaries and birthdays,” she explained.
Beds around the house hold geraniums, Gerber daisies, azaleas and a large gardenia bush that was in full bloom last week. Under the trees in the front yard she has planted hostas and impatiens.
“My impatiens came back from last year,” she said. “I haven’t had to buy any new ones.” Hundreds of these shade-loving plants are now flowering under a large cedar tree in Mrs. Johnson’s backyard, and she has transplanted many more to other sheltered spots.
In a sunny area, she grows daylilies, hibiscus, two banana trees, touch-me-nots and sedum. A bright spot of orange color comes from a clump of chigger weed which she dug up from a construction site.
Mrs. Johnson’s grandchildren (she has seven) spend time with her frequently, and her granddaughter, Ansley, especially enjoys helping her in the yard. “I water and weed,” said Ansley, who will be in the second grade at Chattanooga Christian next fall and is learning about gardening from one who knows of what she speaks. Ansley also likes to visit flower shops with her grandmother.
Some tips that Mrs. Johnson has gleaned over the years include:
1. Don’t ever water Gerber daisies from the top or get their leaves wet. She said that since she heard this and has practiced it, her daisies have really improved.
2. Leave impatiens in the ground until they make seeds. That way you will have new plants next year. “I haven’t bought any in three or four years,” she said.
3. At planting, dip the roots of plants in a root stimulator that has been dissolved in a bucket of water.
4. Feed flowering plants with bloom booster fertilizer every other week.
5. If you keep some of your potted plants, such as geraniums and ferns, in the garage over the winter, you’ll have a head start on next year.
Mrs. Johnson said she always shares plants with her friends. Many of the plants she loves have come to her from family members and gardening friends, and she likes to return the favor by sharing her own with others.
“My favorite pastime is working in the yard,” she said.
E-mail Karin Glendenning at firstname.lastname@example.org