Bill and Judy Barham built and moved into their house in 1990 but the landscape design took a little longer to come together.
Bill Barham made a number of sketches, according to his wife Judy, but none of them hit the nail on the head. The way the house is situated and the way the driveway approaches complicate matters by making the rear of the house the primary entrance and giving it a public face, Judy explains.
So in 1993, the Barhams called in Chip Callaway, a Greensboro landscape designer and Mount Airy native whose work frequently turns up in design magazines. Not an unusual move, as Callaway’s fingerprints are on some of Mount Airy’s finest gardens, a number of which are being featured along with the Barham’s garden in “Mount Airy Blooms,” a tour of Mount Airy gardens on Saturday.
Judy Barham says they started with Callaway’s plan, which situates a formal garden at the rear of the house. The Barhams call it a moonlight garden, as all of the flowers in this area are white, the better for twilight viewing from the brick terrace on a midsummer night.
Judy Barham says the plan was far more elaborate and formal than what exists now. But partway through the project before all the elements had been added, they decided they liked it the way it was. “We liked the simplicity,” says Judy. “We’re getting older and it’s harder to keep up with all this.” One the other hand, she says, who knows what the future will bring? Maybe we will finish Chip’s plan some day.
It doesn’t matter either way. Callaway saw the results and declared that enough of his design had been used that the Barhams could say it’s a Chip Callaway garden, according to Judy. She plans to have the original plans on display during the garden tour so that tour goers can compare the garden as it is with the original design and envision more of the design process.
Bill Barham designed the fountain that is the focal point of the garden and Gary Doss designed the ironwork. Bill also designed the stone capitals on top of the brick pillars punctuating the iron fence that encloses the back of the moonlight garden. The company in Welcome, NC, that built them for the Barhams liked them so much they asked for permission to add them to their catalog. They can be found under the name, “Spangenburg,” named for an 18th century Moravian bishop.
This area also features a Japanese maple from Andy Griffith’s home in Manteo. Two of the English boxwoods here were grown from cuttings from Berkley plantation on the James River but the eye naturally goes to the curving boxwood wall at the far end of the garden. At its center is a wrought iron gate, flanked by two urns, bearing the Barham coat of arms.
That is appropriate as this secret garden is where the family relaxes, plays and works. Where the moonlight garden is the public face of the Barham’s landscape, functioning as an outdoor front parlor, the secret garden is the private space, functioning as an outdoor family room, for the family to kick back and enjoy.
Here they grow vegetables and herbs, Bill pursues his interest in bonsai, and Judy has situated plants she rescued from the lawn of her mother’s house before it was sold, much as one positions well-loved family heirlooms where they can best be enjoyed.
Bill Barham designed metal raised beds, built locally by Gary Doss, to raise vegetables and herbs. He has since invented a special tomato cage that utilizes magnets to make it grow as the plant grows. He is curious as to whether the magnets will affect growth, as some people claim.This patent-pending device is called the “Tomato-Vator” as the cage rises higher and higher when one wants it to go up.
This year, some of the tomato plants are in pots sunk into the raised bed which were given brand new soil. This experiment should tell if fresh soil will eliminate blight at the end of the season.
In back of the Barham’s flower house is a deck with a fairy house for grandson, Jack Lowry. Jack also christened the “hobbit house” originally built to be used as a giant compost heap with a crank to turn the compost. But as the compost piled up, the weight was too much for even two people to turn it. That plan was abandoned, a roof was added and it became a home for hobbits. And gardening tools.
On Saturday, the secret garden will not be such a secret. The Barham’s entire garden will be open to “Mount Airy Blooms” ticketholders from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Due to the configuration of the Barham driveway, there is limited access for a large number of cars. A shuttle from Cross Creek Country Club will be provided on June 10. Please park at Cross Creek and let the shuttle ferry you back and forth.
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.
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.
The tour is underwritten by BB&T Insurance Services, Inc., Carolina Environmental Contracting, Inc. and SouthData, Inc., as well as other sponsors and contributors.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.