Diggin’ In: Seeding his garden with whimsy made him a winner

November 23, 2015

Gary Holloway has spent 42 of his 55 years growing, playing and gardening in the same yard in Hampton, Va.

He’s a self-taught gardener with no formal training, and loves the challenge of turning nothing into something that projects beauty and purpose in the gardens he has created around the 7,500-square-foot yard. Recently, his creativity won him the city’s 2015 Yard of the Year honor from the Yards Are Really Distinctive Showplace Contest sponsored annually by the Hampton Roads Clean City Commission. Judges selected Holloway for his interesting recycled and new yard art, rain barrel, vegetable garden, water feature and native plants, according to a commission news release.

"My yard has a very whimsical but yet manicured look," says Holloway, who lives there with his mother and toy poodle, Daisy. He has been a hair stylist for 27 years.

His whimsy includes his favorite piece, a bright yellow door standing upright in one of the gardens. There’s also a miniature village and ponds for goldfish, turtles and water plants. Fences are lined with fanciful artwork and birdhouses. Several fountains entertain him with the sounds of trickling water. Birdbaths and feeders invite feathered friends into the yard, and landscape lighting extends the yard’s beauty into the night. Many items come from yard and estate sales.

"I love finding treasures that I can repurpose that just need a little TLC to make them look great again," he says.

"The yellow door came as a result of replacing an interior door on the house. With new paint, it’s now the main focal point."

Colorful bottles have been transformed into a bottle tree and bottle peacock. Statuary collections include rabbits, turtles, frogs, gnomes, cats and poodles.

"My poodle statues are very important to me because each one represents a poodle I’ve rescued over the last 16 years," says Holloway. He’s a volunteer master trainer with the Jasmine Charitable Trust, an organization that trains standard poodles to be service dogs.

"Seeing those statues always makes me smile."

Holloway spends 15 to 20 hours weekly in the garden, mostly weekends. He finds the time peaceful and relaxing and enjoys every aspect of its needs, especially pruning.

"My favorite gardening tool is one that was not necessarily intended for yard work," he says.

"It’s a pair of heavy scissors that belonged to my grandmother. She used them in her job as a seamstress, working with heavy fabrics such as canvas. I use them to do quite a bit of trimming in the yard."

Over the years, Holloway’s yard has gone through many facelifts, thanks to the wrath of two of Mother Nature’s storms. In 2011, a hurricane took out a huge red oak that shaded the back yard, so shade-loving hydrangeas had to be moved to get them out of the new sunlight. In 2012, a tornado came through his neighborhood, taking down five of six trees in his neighbor’s yard. Those trees fell onto Holloway’s property, crushing shrubs and fencing.

Nowadays, peony, gardenia, camellia, arborvitae, forsythia, Knock Out roses, golden euonymus, aucuba, Japanese maple, hydrangea and burning bush are his favorite plants. Seasonal color comes in the form of bulbs such as lilies, gladiola, daffodils, hyacinth, amaryllis and paperwhites, as well as annuals in pots and hanging baskets.

"In hindsight, those storms gave me the opportunity to redesign and do some new things in the yard, which I have thoroughly enjoyed," he says.

Holloway’s top gardening tips include:

— Make your yard your own. Do what you like to keep it interesting and you will want to work in and enjoy it.

— Plant only what you are willing to maintain.

— Select plants that bloom at different times of the year so you always have some color.

— Avoid placing plants too close together, especially when you use small shrubs.

— Repurpose and incorporate different items into your yard; it doesn’t have to be all shrubs and flowers.

— Use good gardening/working tools, and clean them often.

— Keep a tarp or plastic in your vehicle for transporting plants.

— Check out Master Gardener plant sales for good buys on plants and knowledgeable people to answer questions about those plants.

— Set up a potting station for everything you need for new plants.

— Enjoy your garden!



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