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.

A driftwood arbor marks the intersection of the driveway and the path to the new building. The adjacent cascading water feature is the source of the stream, and Barry adorned it with plant leaves made from rusted metal scraps.
Standing outside the new structure and looking up the hill toward the driveway, you get a glimpse of the top of the stream, just to the right of the arbor, and see it crossing under the stone steps as it continues its meandering path.

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. 

Fish totem poles flank the entrance to the driveway … and hint at what lies ahead.
Connie elaborately embellished the path from the house to the new structure with a mosaic of found treasures.

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.

Cantilevered over a rocky bluff, the Methvins’ newest building offers fantastic views of Lewis Smith Lake.
A jack-of-all-trades, Barry made everything you see pictured – the house, the artwork on the wall, the stream, and the wooden stairway. When I commented on the beautiful curved handrail, he replied, “People are always so impressed by the handrail, but that was the easy part. It was ten times harder to curve the base of the steps.”

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.”

This is the most adorable use of old sinks that I have ever seen! Connie says, “The sinks weren’t hard to get. I found most of them just scrounging around, and once I have one of something, I want two, and then I want three. That’s how most of my collections start.”
Connie’s use of doll heads and limbs alternates from fun to a bit creepy.

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. 

Clinging to the side of the new building, this dragonfly’s body was carved from found wood and the wings were fashioned from scrap pieces of stainless steel.

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.  

Shortly after turning into the driveway, you pass beneath this enormous sculpture. Barry crafted the body of the dragonfly from chunks of Styrofoam trash found floating in Smith Lake.

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.

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