~Linda Singer

Himalayan blue poppy, a stunning plant that is difficult to grow

Gardening is a life long adventure and there are special people who assist in your journey. For me, gardening may be equal measure plants and people. As I walk through my garden, I admire plants given (or suggested) to me by garden friends. When in bloom, I am reminded of their importance in my life. For example, my “Nelson” poppy was planted for me by Mary Alice Fox (a Nelson resident who has since moved away). She arrived one day in a light rain with her trowel filled with poppy seedlings. Every year when in flower, I am reminded of her joyful, generous spirit. The offspring of these annual poppies have been passed on to many gardeners; and every summer, I send Mary Alice photos of her flowering plants thriving in “my” garden.

Sometimes, mentors show up in your life, quite by chance. I first met Kristian Fenderson many years ago as we were each admiring a flowering stewartia tree at Arbor Nursery. Soon we were discussing its beautiful trunk, peeling bark, exquisite flowers, and that this one was uniquely pink! The white flowered variety is hardier in our growing zone; but as gardeners, we do challenge “boundaries”, especially for such an attractive tree. We talked about ourselves, and to my surprise, I discovered he had been involved in the design and implementation of my garden through its previous owner! Over the years, our paths have crossed. Kris has visited my garden, made suggestions, but more importantly, changed how I look at gardens. His Acworth garden has been an inspiration to me, a place I visit regularly. Kris has gardened there for 50 years, and the experience for me is nothing short of miraculous. The garden features many mature, well-tended trees and shrubs on a mountain top, with expansive views of meadows, woods, and sky naturally flowing into his garden design. Many of these trees are unique specimens, including several large contorted and weeping beeches. There is a handsome bench placed under one of these grand trees. Sitting there, one can gaze through these branches to the sky while simultaneously experiencing the intimacy of this garden space. There are beautiful perennials everywhere, including a vast collection primroses (a specialty of his), peonies, and just an abundance of all things interesting. I highly suggest a visit to Kris’s garden which is generously open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10-4. Wear comfortable shoes!

In my photo supplement to this writing, I have included a “primrose” that Kris has propagated and named for Anne Robertson, the original owner of my home and garden. And yes, the pink stewartia is thriving! I look forward to seeing its bloom later this summer and experience once again the natural beauty of Grout Hill Gardens.


Primrose Anne Robertson in Kristian’s garden


Large patch of trillium, beautiful even as they evolve from their “peak” white blooms to dormancy


Great use of flowering shrubs, creating a very natural, unforced landscape


Garden walk and Plantings along historic barn


Contorted weeping beech tree


An azalea leaning onto stately birch tree


A beautiful sunny primrose