Watkinsville man’s inspiration leads to yard flourishing with plants, art and beauty

As Bob Tucker walked casually through his yard on a warm April afternoon, he spied a clematis vine that had gifted its first lavishly purple flower of the spring.

 

“I want something blooming at all times of the year,” Tucker said, standing amid the plants he nurtures on his plot of land in this forested Watkinsville subdivision.

And the yard with its hydrangea, weeping cherry trees, smoke bush and giant Solomon’s Seal plants, is more than a gardener’s quilt of texture and colors. It is interspersed with outdoor art, fish homes and a place for birds to raise families. And there are the unique spots – a bog garden and a rare moss yard.

Tucker’s yard, deemed the “Inspiration Garden,” is one of five gardens in Oconee County that are part of the Second Annual Oconee Garden Tour sponsored by the Oconee Resource Council and Watkinsville Garden Club. The proceeds go to the Oconee Mentor Program and the Oconee School Gardens.

Other gardens on the tour are the Historic Garden Estate (in downtown Watkinsville), the Hungry Gnome Garden (edible garden), the Suburban Circle Garden (bird and pollinator friendly) and the Oliver Bridge Escape (Mediterranean-inspired). The tour takes place April 29 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 on day of tour.

Tucker has lived in his home for 28 years, but it was the blizzard of 1993 that turned him into the flora and fauna wizard of Hillcrest Drive. That storm played havoc on the trees as it snapped numerous mature pine trees on what was once a thickly wooded lot.

“I couldn’t get out of the driveway and you couldn’t see the house from the road so many trees fell,” he said. When these were cleared, he removed even more pines and the sweet gum trees. With many trees now cleared, Tucker’s spade and hoe went to work. Over the intervening years, he searched nurseries for plants and he scoured antique and sales shops for unusual outdoor sculpture. With his finds, the New Jersey native relentlessly tinkered with nature on the two-acre piece of Southern land.

“When I was in high school I took a couple of horticulture classes, so I know enough to get me in trouble,” he said with a chuckle.

A greenhouse soon was erected, where his green thumb pushed seeds into soft potting soil. In its warm confines, Tucker sprouts his heirloom tomatoes including the Big Reds, Cherokee Purples and the Box Car Willies.

“I got carried away with my tomato plants,” he remarked about the dozens and dozens of plants crowding the shelves.

Then there is the unique moss yard growing under an expanse of summertime shade that provides a uniquely textured look to the ground. And it never needs mowing.

“It’s been tough,” Tucker said about growing such an expanse of moss. “It’s taken like six years to do this. Every day I’m out here with the blower blowing it off and keeping it damp and clean.”

In one area, he has bird houses stationed atop live trees cut as posts. Small limbs are beginning to grow and embrace the boxes.

Amid the garden that makes up his backyard are three koi ponds with large orange-and-yellow fish. Then there is the sprinkling of colorful solar light fixtures that bring sparkle to the night. Motion comes to the yard when the numerous whirligigs spin on the surf of wind.

In one spot near the house, he dug a deep hole, fitted the sides with a liner and filled it with peat moss. The spot is kept saturated with water as it provides a home for his “bog garden” flowers.

Tucker’s collection of yard art range from pieces made by local artists such as Loretta Eby and Leigh Ellis to a blue bottle tree made by a folk artist in the North Georgia mountains.

Keeping his extravagant garden aglow takes labor, but Tucker said he finds himself immersed daily in his hobby.

“I love it,” the gardener said.

For more information or tickets on the garden tour call (706) 769-4974.

 

More