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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.