The Master Gardeners took a field trip to Maria Wall's garden on Saturday. I've been there countless times but I never tire of touring her garden and I'm always amazed at what she has accomplished. That is Maria in the photo on the right standing next to a bed of giant hostas and azaleas. She is under 5' tall but don't let that deceive you!
We first met Maria when we were just starting out gardening. A co-worker of Michael's lived in Maria's neighborhood and arranged a visit with her. Every beginning gardener should visit someone like Maria - you will either go home full of inspiration or feel like a wimp after seeing what she had done.
First of all, her garden is on a steep hill. The front lawn is covered in lush green moss and punctuated with beds of ferns, hosta and azaleas. Another small area lies in back of the house, which features a fish pond and a collection of flowers that attract hummingbirds. This is the only area that gets sun.
From there, it is a steep descent down hill (walking canes are provided!). Large railroad ties serve as steps to help you get down but this is a slow walk because there are lots of beautiful plants to see along the way down.
At the bottom, the Tennessee River backs up to her property. It is this area that is the most magical.
Trees fall frequently in her woods and when they do, Maria always comes up with a plan on how to use them. Every trip I make to her garden, I'm always seeing something new.
Shade loving plants, like ferns, hosta and impatiens are abundant. One plant that you see everywhere is this lovely peacock moss (Selaginella uncinata) (below), growing next to hosta.
There are many sitting areas and Maria's garden is the ultimate place to relax. The only sounds are water and birdsong and even on a hot day, it is remarkably cool.
The tour of the bottom garden ends in an open area that has places to sit and relax, even cold drinks in the a basket under the bridge in the stream.
Then it is back up hill again on the opposite side of the garden. Along the way are grottos and "moss galleries". Back near the top is another sitting area where Maria has graciously provided snacks and drinks. There is also a miniature train and I forgot to take a photo of it.
Maria is a true friend and an inspiration to gardeners everywhere. I wrote my first article for Alabama Gardener about her garden. She has also appeared in Southern Living and two books about Alabama gardeners.