A continuing garden profile
Story and Photography by Peggy Hill
Long-time readers of Alabama Gardener magazine might recall an article in the September 2011 issue about Barry and Connie Methvin’s quirky, imaginative garden titled Paradise Found. The article focused on how they created an amazing garden by decorating with art fashioned from found objects. It’s been over six years since we ran that story, and the Methvins have been busy.
Much of the garden’s growth is centered around a second building that Barry constructed about 70 yards away from the original home. The structure started as a platform for breakdancing, but due to a sad lack of breakdancers, it was never used. The Methvins are experts at repurposing. They don’t let anything go to waste, least of all a perfectly good platform, so Barry added walls and a roof. When he completed it in 2016, he started on the surrounding garden.
His first project was an elaborate water feature. He hadn’t built anything like it before, but a lack of expertise never stops Barry. He’s the type of do-it-yourselfer who’s not afraid to tackle anything. He said, “I didn’t have a plan. I just started at the top, and I worked my way down the hill. I’d install about a 5-foot-long section, and then I’d stop and spend a few days figuring out what I wanted to do next. The lay of the land dictated some of my decisions. One area was relatively flat, so I put a small pond there. Steep areas were obvious locations for waterfalls.” It took him three months to complete the 100-foot-long stream.
When he finished, he thought the area still looked ugly, so he camouflaged the bare dirt with mosses, and then added ferns and other native plants found in the woods around his house. He planted partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), wild ginger (Asarum spp.), coral bells (Heuchera spp.), and hearts-a-burstin’ (Euonymus americanus). Not only do these plants suit the natural surroundings, they also require minimal maintenance, which suits the Methvins. Barry says, “When we moved to this property in 2008, I got rid of my lawn mower and string trimmer and I’m not buying new ones.”
The Methvins buy very little; they prefer to create their art from things that would otherwise be discarded. Barry calls it “making something from nothing.” You see examples everywhere, starting with the sculptures at the entrance, about which Barry said, “One of my trees died. Instead of wasting all that good wood, I carved the trunk and made totem pole fishes.” Farther along, suspended over the driveway, is an enormous dragonfly with a 16-foot wingspan and a body crafted from large chunks of Styrofoam found floating in Smith Lake. In the Methvins’ garden, trash isn’t thrown away; it’s transformed into artwork.
While Barry worked on the new building and surrounding garden, Connie concentrated on the path between the house and the new structure. One of Connie’s guiding philosophies is that everything looks better covered in mosaic, and that includes dirt. With an artist’s eye, she slathered the ground with bits of junk. It’s a wonderful, playful touch that I’ve never seen anywhere else.
I asked the Methvins about their plans for the future, and neither one gave me a straight answer. Connie said, “If I’ve got enough time, I would like to mosaic the world.” Barry said, “I don’t know. It’ll depend on what I have to work with. If I find some interesting dead trees, I’d like to make furniture. If not, I’ll do something else.” Whatever they do, I’m sure it’ll be fascinating.