Dean Simmons is not willing to admit that he is the primary landscape designer at the home his family has lived in since it was built in 1980, but he will cop to being the one who decides what goes where.
“I’ve been piddling out here since 1980, planting stuff, digging stuff up and cutting trees,” he said. Sometimes, he said, his decision-making comes down to putting something in his garden, then deciding the plants have become too prominent in his landscape, so he cuts them back. “It’s a work in progress.” He says the property started looking like he wanted it to about 15 years ago.
During a recent day near the end of May, he was spreading 50 bales of pine needles on his various plant beds. He uses a mix of pine needles and wood mulch on his garden. He says, “I like pine needles near the house because of termites. The wood mulch goes everywhere else.” Each spring, after the mulch is spread and Simmons has planted whatever new specimens have caught his eye, it’s just a matter of mowing and watering the container plants for the rest of the summer. “I’m a fan of low-maintenance,” he says.
For that reason, he likes perennials since they come back year after year. But then again, annuals have more color so he uses some of them too.
Simmons has taken to planting his perennials in pots to protect them from voles. He likes using containers in the landscape. He also likes rocks and stone. He uses them as retaining walls and being naturalistic in the landscape. He hauls rocks from Pilot Knob, saying “I like equipment.” He has an arrangement with a man there who gives him rock and he makes a donation to the man’s church.
Simmons also uses his equipment to move dirt around and literally re-shape the topography of his property. He has created a multi-level lawn in the back with steps and slopes between the levels. He says that during the process, his septic line ended up buried about 15 feet down. “That’s not a good idea,” he says.
After taking down some trees on the back of his property, Simmons discovered that he not only has a sweeping view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he also has a view of Cross Creek’s golf course.
As might be expected on a rambling property on the outskirts of town, deer can be a challenge. Especially since Dean Simmons likes hostas, sometimes known as “deer crack.” He solved the deer problem by getting a dog. Which presented him with a dog digging problem, necessitating an invisible fence to keep his dog out of the planting beds — not an inexpensive feat, given that he paid for installing the fence, then paid to have it re-installed as he searched for the optimal placement to protect his plants from his dog while his dog protected everything from marauding deer.
Dean Simmons thinks he pretty much has his garden where he wants it. He may “limb up” the trees in the front a little more, but not too much. Unless he finds a plant he likes, he’s finished.
“I don’t know why they wanted us for the tour,” he says, speaking of “Mount Airy Blooms,” the garden tour that three Mount Airy garden clubs are holding June 10, “but I’m happy to help them raise some money.”
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.
Tickets for the tour 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.
Public restrooms will be available at the Main Street comfort station and at Cross Creek Country Club.
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.
The tour is underwritten by BB&T Insurance Services, Inc., Carolina Environmental Contracting, Inc. and SouthData, Inc., as well as other sponsors and contributors.
Contributors to “Mount Airy Blooms” include Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Woltz and Workforce Unlimited.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.