A profile of Hernando gardener Parker Pickle

Story and photo by Karen Ott Mayer

For more than 40 years, Parker Pickle has been known to many Hernando residents as the DeSoto County tax assessor. Across town at his home, The Cedars, Pickle has cultivated an immense loyalty to his home and garden. “I could never imagine living anywhere else. I love this house,” he said. Unlike those people looking for upgrades, the latest amenities or the best neighborhood, Pickle’s loyal roots run deep on Elm Street. When he moved to the property in 1983, he carried with him a lifelong love of gardening, born from his rural upbringing on a dairy farm near Love, Mississippi. Perhaps it was planting potatoes as a young boy or working the huge vegetable field garden that sparked his love of plants, but no matter the reason, his passion for flowering plants has never waned.

Before he arrived, there were few flowers in the yard. Today, the yard boasts a long list of shrubs, flowers, and trees, almost all planted by Pickle. “Many of my plants are passalong plants,” he said. In early spring, the yard flourishes with a mixture of lenten roses (Helleborus spp.), daffodils (Narcissus spp.), Forsythia, peonies (Paeonia spp.), flowering quince (Chaenomeles spp.), redbud (Cercis spp.), and dogwood (Cornus spp.) trees. Later, Gingko and cherries (Prunus spp.) add color. 

His preference for daffodils originates back to his family farm. “I dug up several ‘Mount Hood’ daffodils and planted them in this yard. They’re still living today.” A variety that dates back to the 1930s, ‘Mount Hood’ is a trumpet variety with creamy white blooms that are yellow in the center.

“I’ve never met a flower I didn’t like.”  It’s a rare day that Pickle doesn’t have fresh flowers in the kitchen, on a side table, or on the front porch.

Pickle’s yard peaks several times throughout the season, and is particularly vibrant when his large collection of Iris is in bloom. Acquired over the years, with many transplanted from a friend’s yard, the iris cover the property, particularly the backyard and side yard. Yellow, purple, and peach varieties bloom within days of each other. 

During the summer, the front walk and beds explode in bright yellow swaths of black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia). Around the same time, old-fashioned lilies (Lilium spp.) bloom in shades of orange and yellow.

While some may worry about design and form, Pickle certainly doesn’t and makes no apologies about it. “I don’t keep any journals or records. There’s no method to the madness. I just wander the yard and think a certain plant might look good in one spot or another.” And unlike perfectly manicured yards, Pickle doesn’t mind letting the seasons dictate the style. In spring, he lets the yard run its course, delaying the first mowing until all the delicate lawn flowers have died back. 

Despite his upbringing, no vegetables grow at The Cedars. The reason has less to do with preference than practicality. “I have so many squirrels they would eat everything. I also have mostly shade and not enough sun to grow vegetables.”

Pickle believes that having a lifelong connection to the soil shapes a life. “It’s important. I love to plant something and watch it grow. There’s something in the thought that you can watch something grow and know that you did it.

“I’ve never met a flower I didn’t like.”  It’s a rare day that Pickle doesn’t have fresh flowers in the kitchen, on a side table, or on the front porch.

Photo: Parker Pickle enjoys an afternoon in his favorite place, the yard at his home where he has lived for nearly 40 years.

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