This landscape is a garden of trees … and so much more

Story by Katie Jackson

When Jim Henderson was a child wandering in the woods around his family’s rural Georgia home, he developed a deep affection for nature, especially trees, so it’s no surprise that in 1972 when he and his wife Bonnie looked at 5 acres of land in Beauregard as a possible house site, it was a tree that sealed the deal.

Jim, a professional contractor, had always been fascinated by geodesic domes, so when he and his family moved to their property in Beauregard, it’s the house he built for them. It’s filled with intriguing curves and angles, which have been mirrored in a cozy guest house that Jim also designed and built several years ago. Photo by Katie Jackson.

The property was primarily pastureland with few trees – save for a handsome white oak (Quercus alba) growing near a natural spring. “When I saw that big old tree near the spring I knew I had to have this place,” Jim said. 

This charming fox statue and fox crossing sign are located along the Hendersons’ driveway at a spot where foxes have often been seen crossing, probably on their way to sample some of Jim’s blueberries. Jim and Bonnie often find them snacking on those blueberries, but figure there are enough to share. Photo by Katie Jackson.

Sure enough, they bought the property and Jim, a professional contractor, set about building a geodesic dome house for him, Bonnie, and their two children, Heather and Jamey. Though they needed some of that pastureland for Heather’s horses, Jim, the family member with the greatest interest in gardening at the time, began to plant things. 

Jim Henderson, with the help of his daughter Heather and son Jamey, collected sandstone and quartz rock for several years, and then tucked it away for future use. In 2014, he used that rock to build this garden area in the center of their driveway, which is filled with a variety of flowers, including many that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Photo by Katie Jackson.

Since neither he nor Bonnie came from strong gardening backgrounds, they had a lot to learn, so Jim began educating himself by poring over gardening and plant books and planting what interested him. “At that time, I didn’t have any interest in flowers,” Jim said. “I thought, ‘If I can’t eat it, I’m not going to plant it.’ I also didn’t want to spend every waking moment pampering anything.” 

The deck that encircles the Hendersons’ house affords a variety of views of their garden. One of their favorites is this view from beneath their large kitchen window down to the pond. Photo by Katie Jackson.

With that in mind, he focused on food-producing and low-maintenance plants that could sustain their family and allow him to plant his favorites – trees. Through the years he’s planted more than 1,000 trees on the property, ranging from bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) to apple (Malus spp.), pear (Pyrus spp.), peach (Prunus persica), pomegranate (Punica granatum), persimmon (Diospyros spp.), and olive trees (Olea europaea). He also grew vegetables and began to put in other fruit-bearing plants such as blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), figs (Ficus spp.), muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia), pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana), and a mayhaw (Crataegus spp.).   

Over time, they have expanded their garden to include more ornamentals and have worked to create a landscape that combines their different gardening tastes: Bonnie likes a formal garden; Jim likes a full one. “If there is any spare ground anywhere he wants to plant something,” Bonnie said. 

The Hendersons’ property in Beauregard is at the end of a long and winding driveway where visitors are greeted by these two handsome horse heads, a nod to their daughter’s lifelong love of horses. Photo by Katie Jackson.

The result is that their property, which grew to almost 10 acres after the Hendersons bought adjoining land in 2016, is a gorgeous mix of natural and manicured spaces filled with Jim’s beloved trees and fruit-bearing plants, but also Hydrangea, azaleas (Rhododendron spp.), old-fashioned roses (Rosa spp.), and much more. 

This large, stately water fountain, which was given to Jim by his brother several years ago, became the centerpiece to the Hendersons’ rock-walled garden that Jim built in 2014. Photo by Katie Jackson.

Some have worked. Some have not. But Jim is undeterred, and he has discovered lots of ornamental plants that work well. Among those are perennials and naturally reseeding plants, many of which are planted in a rock-walled garden (built in 2014 from slabs and chunks of local sandstone and quartz that Jim, Heather, and Jamey collected several years ago). That garden space, the centerpiece of which is a handsome water fountain, is filled with an eclectic mix of plants such as Dahlia, Zinnia, lilies (Lilium spp.), autumn sage (Salvia greggii), Gaura, black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata), and accented with ornamental grasses, old-fashioned roses, and Japanese maples (Acer palmatum). 

The property also features as an earthen tilapia-stocked pond located just outside their kitchen window that’s banked by hydrangeas. And it has a number of other charming elements as well, such as an enchanting guesthouse, which once housed goats and horses, but now is a haven for friends and relatives, and a delightful array of garden art, included “forest critters” that Jim created from pieces of found wood.

Though Jim remains fond of his fruiting trees, such as Asian pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) and persimmons, which have done particularly well for him, he also has had great success with muscadines, blueberries, figs, and mayhaw. Photo by Katie Jackson.

As Bonnie and Jim continue their gardening education, they continue adding plants to their landscape, including wildflowers, ferns, beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.), herbs, and rabbiteye blueberries. 

As for future plans – it’s all about learning more. “I’ll just keep exploring and experimenting, which is usually what I do,” Jim said. And they welcome visitors there, too.

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