The first thing you're sure to notice when walking into Tammy Hass' garden is that — even on a gray early-spring day — every inch is bursting in vivid green, a precursor to the blooms which overtake the space later in the season.
Hass has resided in her Ridgedale home since 1978, but it wasn't until 2010 that she began work on the garden. When her full-time job cut back to part time, she decided to turn her energy to transforming the tree-filled yard into a garden. "I kept saying 'I want to see what [the yard] could be," says Hass. "Then it was like, well, I have nothing to do, I'll start working on my yard."
The project quickly turned into a passion, with Hass now spending much of her free time outside. If she's not at work, she says, people know where to find her.
Her garden is terraced, fitting snugly into the hillside while offering plenty of places for plants to grow in a formal-looking arrangement. A network of stone walls snakes throughout, holding up the dirt and dividing the yard into sections.
For the most part, Hass' plants have been chosen by chance — daffodils found in an empty lot she drove by; a rosebush gifted from a bed and breakfast she used to visit in North Carolina; irises brought by a friend who saw them being tossed out and asked if he could take them. Occasionally she buys plants from "the dead section" at Lowe's, not minding that all they offer is another pop of green. "They're flowered out, but who cares. They're not dead-dead," she says.
Most of the plants are one-time bloomers, ensuring Hass always has more work to do to keep her colorful masterpiece in bloom. She recently planted a few repeat bloomers but says she prefers one-timers, which give her work she looks forward to year after year. The result is a garden that hits full bloom around June but stays green the rest of the year.
Hass couldn't tell you how many plants she has, but she's happy to point out favorites. There are yellow daffodils with rippling cups that add a burst of color to one corner of the yard. A rosebush wraps over an old swing sitting to the side, and while not yet in bloom, its green leaves add a burst of brightness against the swing's chipped white paint. In the back is a dwarf maple, and to the side stands a fig tree which bears fruit both Hass and the birds enjoy.
In addition to flowers, Hass has dedicated a section to vegetables. That section is still in progress, but lettuce, cabbage, spinach, tomatoes and peas will fill the garden upon its completion. In the middle she has crafted teepees out of bamboo to hold up the pea stalks when they begin their upward growth.
Along with plants, statues and brickwork are scattered throughout the yard. Like the plants, all have come to Hass secondhand. She loves thrifting almost as much as gardening, and her yard has allowed her to merge the two in seamless fashion. From the gate she purchased at an estate sale to the cobblestones saved when a gas company was digging up a section of Dodds Avenue, every piece has a story and all have been placed with intent. "You just kind of see things and you think about it and you're like 'oh, that's a good idea,'" Hass says of her inspiration.
In 2013, Hass took a Master Gardener course at UTC. She learned about different soil and how to trim plants, along with other skills helpful for keeping a garden alive. Although if you ask Hass, all you really need is good soil. "You just do it," she says. "You just throw [the plants] in the ground. If the soil is good, then no problem."
At the moment, Hass has no plans to expand the garden further; she wants to focus on what's already there. Walls still have to be rebuilt, a leaky pond fixed and vegetables planted. But with the days getting longer, it's impossible for her not to dream up some new projects as well: A door in the middle of a path is going to be painted like it belongs in "Bugs Bunny," with "Knock, knock" graffitied on one side and "Who's there?" on the other. Wildflowers are going to be added to the edge of the vegetable garden. A hot pink wall will soon be painted with a mural of flowers and a large bumblebee.
This year's early spring has been a boon for Hass — a few days of blackberry winter couldn't keep her inside. Amid the frigid, gray drizzle, Hass heads back up the terrace. It will take more than a few chilly drops to pull her away.