Rosie and Kester Sink agreed to participate in “Mount Airy Blooms,” a June 10 tour of Mount Airy gardens, more as a way to share the history of their home with the public than for the beauty of their gardens.
As Rosie Sink says, “It’s about the history here. Not the gardens. And it’s still a working farm. That’s important.”
And indeed, the history of the property is impressive. The white clapboard two-story farmhouse was built by Chang Bunker in the mid-1840s and remains family property today. Chang Bunker and his twin Eng Bunker were the Siamese twins who came to America in the early 1800s and ultimately settled in Mount Airy. Among other historic accomplishments, they were the first Asians to become US citizens. Eng Bunker had a farm across the road, which has since burned.
But Chang’s farm is still very much in existence. The main crop nowadays is seed and sweet corn but in the farm’s almost 200 year history, it has been a hog farm, a horse farm, a cattle farm, a tobacco farm and a chicken farm.
When asked how many acres the farm encompasses, Kester Sink replies, “I don’t know and if I did, I’d take out a mortgage.” Kester is a tall, sprightly man of 93 with a keen sense of humor and a deep knowledge of the history of both the farm and Eng and Chang Bunker, moving easily between giving unsolicited fashion advice to an impertinent reporter to discussing the economic ramifications of the post-Civil War period.
But Rosie Sink is being modest when she dismisses the beauty of her gardens. Not least among them is her rose garden where she coaxes finicky hybrid teas into glorious bloom. Hybrid tea roses look lovely in a vase or when presented in a box but Rosie’s are beautiful in the garden. Not the usual spindly, disease-ridden vines one often sees but lush, colorful shrubs bursting with blooms. She clearly lavishes them with love and attention and they have repaid her handsomely.
She also has extensive vegetable gardens where she grows food for the family, much of which she cans and freezes so the vegetables last all winter.
But, then again, the history of the place is never very far away. The rose garden overlooks the farm’s original barn, built by the Siamese twins, and is next to an ancient holly tree that predates the house.
Not to mention that the location of Rosie Sink’s rose garden was the original resting place of the twins. “As the story goes,” says Rosie Sink, “When the twins died, their bodies were hidden in the cellar of the house to keep them from being stolen.” They were then buried on the property, probably where the rose garden is now. When Chang’s wife Adelaide died, the bodies were moved to White Plains Baptist Church and buried beside her.
And Rosie Sink is not the first person to grow roses on the property. As one walks from the car park area to the front door, there is an enormous rose bush to the right which is called “Grandma Bunker’s rose,” according to Kester Sink, who believes it was planted by Adelaide Bunker, Chang Bunker’s wife. It is a “Burr Rose” (Rosa Roxburghii), also known as Chestnut Rose or Chinquapin Rose, and indeed the buds are covered in prickly, sharp needles that create a burr.
The large front lawn is the perfect spot for a garden wedding and many have been held there over the years, in the shade of the ancient holly tree. Kester Sink’s double swing from his childhood has been restored and sits next to the playhouse located at the far corner of the main house.
Since the Siamese twins established their farms and Chang Bunker built his farmhouse in the mid-1840s, Mount Airy has grown to the point where commercial businesses adjoin the farm.
As to the impact of the city’s growth, Rosie Sink says, “The city may grow around the farm. But it won’t grow through it.” She is sure that history will continue to be made at Hollyview Farm, much as it always has been.
“Mount Airy Blooms” will give visitors the opportunity to see history up close on June 10 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 and are on sale at Webb Interiors, 1191 W. Lebanon St., Mount Airy and at the Mount Airy Visitors Center, 200 N. Main St., Mount Airy and online at Eventbrite.com.
Though some gardens, including Hollyview Farm, are at historic homes, the tour is not a home tour. The gardens will be open but the houses will not be. Public restrooms will be available at the Main Street comfort station and at Cross Creek Country Club.
Proceeds raised from “Mount Airy Blooms” will go to support garden club projects in the area, including the Joan and Howard Woltz Hospice Home Rose Garden, restoration of the gardens at the Historic Moore House, maintenance and upkeep of the Main Street mini-garden fountain, lobby arrangements at Northern Hospital and special programming for the Jones School exceptional children’s class.
A Box Luncheon will be available under the Pavilion at Cross Creek Country Club, 1129 Greenhill Road, for $12. It must be prepaid by June 5. Payment may be made at the Mount Airy Visitors Center, 200 N. Main St., Mount Airy. A vegetarian meal is available. Please request when ordering.
Contributors to “Mount Airy Blooms” include F. Rees Company, LBA Haynes Strand, PLLC, Mr. and Mrs. Bud Kilby and Professional Roofing Services, Inc.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.