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march CONTENTS 2018 • VOLUME 15 • NO. 3

features 46 Gardens of the South Finding Inspiration in Nature

60 Taking It to The MAX Celebrating Mississippi’s Legends

54 No Yard, No Problem Gardening in Small Spaces

departments 14 Living Well Playing in the Dirt

42 On the Road Again Ocean Springs, Mississippi

18 Notables P. Allen Smith

44 Greater Goods 66 Homegrown Little Birdie Pillow Company

22 Exploring Art Sally Markell Makes Her Mark

70 Southern Gentleman Do-It-Yourself Lawn Care

26 Exploring Books Perennials by Julie Cantrell

72 Southern Harmony Violinist Susan Holloway

30 Into the Wild Oxford’s Landscaping Camp

76 In Good Spirits The Green Line

34 Table Talk Boshamps: Gulf to Table

78 Exploring Events

38 Exploring Destinations Spring Break on a Budget


80 Reflections Tyranny of a Lawn



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editor’s note } march Rosemary to the Rescue The South has some of the loveliest public gardens in the world. Whenever I visit one as I did for this month’s cover story, I come away with grandiose ideas to try at home. However, I was not blessed with my Mississippi grandmother’s green thumb, and I can count the number of my living houseplants on one hand – and I wouldn’t describe them as healthy. Then I received a lovely card from former editor Karen Ott Mayer with a picture of rosemary from her Moon Hollow Farm in Como. The card said the pungent herb is sacred to remembrance and friendship. And then I remembered I have indeed grown something successfully: rosemary. For me, my rosemary bush symbolizes persistence and tenacity. I moved it from Atlanta in a pot almost 20 years ago, and today it towers above my head at the corner of my back door. I wish I knew why it flourished when so many of my other gardening projects failed. I hope our green and growing stories in this issue will inspire readers to keep trying for the perfect plants, lawns and gardens. If you have a small space, don’t despair… check out Jason Frye’s story about container and vertical gardening. And James Richardson tells us why “playing in the dirt” is a healthy habit.

MARCH 2018 • Vol. 15 No.3


With so many gardening stories, we decided to add a little entertainment to the mix —specifically the new Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience in Meridian. Writer Julia Miller gives us a sneak peek of The MAX, which is set to open in late April and will honor and remember many legendary Mississippians. Here’s to rosemary – may we all be tenacious when it comes to remembering friendships and the beauty of nature.

Mary Ann on the cover Dixon Gallery and Gardens has many lovely areas in the spring, especially the tulip garden around the statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. The cast iron statue was a gift of Mary and Charles Wurtzburger in memory of Julia “Dolly” Wurtzburger. Photography provided by Dixon Gallery and Gardens.

CONTRIBUTORS Rebecca Bingham Robin Gallaher Branch Cheré Coen Dave Cross Mary Ann DeSantis Jason Frye Verna Gates Karen Ott Mayer Julia Miller Charlene Oldham James Richardson Andrea Brown Ross Pam Windsor PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 205 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 Get social with us!

©2018 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein t o b e re p ro d u c e d i n a n y m a n n e r. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties interested in advertising should email or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at

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living well } playing in the dirt

Pepper on the back porch

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Green tomato on the vine

Playing in the Dirt By James Richardson | Photography courtesy of James Richardson

As sunny, spring days replace the gray skies of winter, it’s time to think about gardening – an outdoor activity with fringe benefits like your own fresh produce. Spring in the Mid-South is a beautiful time. Trees begin to bloom and show their leaves. Green grass pops through the brown remembrances of the winter just past. The spring flowers emerge. Nature’s growing season makes one think, especially in the South, that it would be nice to plant something. Like a garden. Or raising a few tomato plants. Or not. The idea of raising and eating vegetables from their very own garden is very appealing to some Mid-Southerners. To others, just a few tomato plants will cure the urge to grow something. But a garden is a lot of work. Just ask Jim Long of Fayette County,Tennessee. He is a retired accountant, and with his wife Pauline, has been raising a garden for the past several years.

“Gardening is hard work with a lot of satisfaction on the back end. It gets me outside and allows me to get a certain amount of exercise,” he says. “But preparing the ground with manure, sand, and lime is a lot of work. Then there is the tilling to mix the dirt and aerating the ground to prepare it for the seed sets. I guess there is a certain amount of stress relief, but that is not the primary reason we garden.” Long and his wife, Pauline, participate in the gardening endeavors equally. Long does the things requiring the most physical effort while his wife takes care of the planning and planting. “It is a team effort and gets us working on a common goal,” he explains. DeSoto 17

Cucumber picking

That is the way most gardeners work...together with their spouse. Not only does it give the satisfaction of growing their own food, but it also hopefully bonds their relationship. Satisfaction and eating the end products of the labor seem to be the most common reasons for gardening. In addition, making a trip to the nearby grocery store would be a lot easier than putting in all the work and expense of growing their own vegetables. “Mostly we get the satisfaction of growing things that we can eat after the harvest on an ongoing basis,” he says. Another benefit from gardening is that it is the ‘gift that keeps on giving.’ The produce is often too abundant to consume as it is harvested. So, preserving it by canning is the likely solution. “My wife makes sweet pickles by the boatload, more than we can possibly eat or need, but she has a whole list of people who enjoy receiving them,” he says.“There are some things that get planted for the benefit of others because a lot of the satisfaction in managing the garden is to give others the benefit of the things that we grow.” Long says another benefit is knowing his garden produce is fresh.“It did not spend a lot of time on a truck after being picked green and chemically ripened – either on the way to the store or in a warehouse somewhere,” he says proudly. “What we grow we mostly share with family. Some folks happen to show up at the house at the right time and will probably walk away with something from the garden. Most everybody likes tomatoes and when they start coming in, there are almost more than we can deal with. 18 DeSoto

“They have to go somewhere. We start working the list so that family and friends can get tomatoes before they go bad or when they are just before optimal ripeness.” Some friends and family just can’t wait, though. “My brother-in-law showed up one day and started eating ripe cherry tomatoes off the vine by the back door,” he adds with a smile.“My wife tried to explain to him that she had just sprayed for bugs and he needed to wash them off.” Knowing what chemicals are used on a garden is another advantage of growing one’s own fruits and vegetables, which is an unknown factor when buying produce from a grocery store. But managing a garden also has other challenges, according to Long. “There is also some level of satisfaction in outsmarting the deer and others animals and bugs that attempt to eat things in the garden and take advantage of our work.” Long says gardening has another benefit besides getting exercise, being outdoors and eating fresh produce. “Being successful at growing a garden brings an appreciation of what doing a good job at something feels like,” he explains.“Like the kind of feeling that if you can grow tomatoes, there are probably other things that you can do, too.”

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notables } p. allen smith

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The Rose Garden at Moss Mountain Farm. Here, Smith raises antique and more recent varieties of roses. His favorite are Noisettes, the first class of American roses. Credit: Mark Fonville

P. Allen Smith’s “Garden Home” By Rebecca Bingham | Photography courtesy of Mark Fonville and Bill Ridlehoover

Helping people become aware of beauty in the ordinary has been P. Allen Smith’s calling for more than 17 years with his PBS series “Garden Home.” When it comes to American gardens and design, P. Allen Smith is a household name. But few fans know where the moniker originated. “I am actually a ‘junior,’ named after my father, Paul Allen,” Smith explains. “When I enrolled in college, the registrar added a first initial to make the distinction. My grandmother, however, always said the P stands for ‘potential’.” A long-time ambassador for conservation and stewardship, Smith uses his 500-acre Arkansas estate at Moss Mountain Farm as a backdrop, studio and laboratory for two television programs: “P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home,” now entering its 17th season on PBS and “Garden Style,” his syndicated show.

“We absolutely love having visitors. It’s what gives everything here a purpose. In fact, I can’t imagine having the farm without sharing it,” he says. “Our hope is when we welcome guests with our brand of genuine hospitality, they will disconnect from their problems and really reconnect with beauty and ideas that will inspire them long after they leave.” Smith’s personal passions for gardening, design, green building, heritage poultry and sustainable living emerged from a childhood spent on a middle-Tennessee farm. “What I remember most is the openness of freedom that comes from living in ‘wildness’ – wandering through the woods, running in the fields, swimming in creeks – all without worry. I believe this DeSoto 21

This garden room, part of the Terrace Gardens at Moss Mountain Farm, is surrounded by chaste trees (vitex) and overlooks the Arkansas River. Credit: Mark Fonville

sort of grounding helps us discover our authentic self so that we can become more comfortable expressing who we really are.” Authenticity is a predominant theme at Smith’s farm, which dates to 1840. “I’ve always felt history provides important context; it serves as a barometer, a North Star. Two remarkable art teachers helped me understand how the arch of history affects fine arts in general – sculpture, architecture, music, painting, poetry – and my personal expression of art, in particular.” Eventually, while attending graduate school in England, Smith began to see more clearly how design could honor the spirit of a place by directing the energy of objects to reflect harmony and tranquility. “I would like to be remembered for helping people become more aware of the beauty in the ordinary as a pathway to contentment, which in itself, is a joyous thing,” he says. “Nature is a good place to start.” This philosophy influenced Smith’s decision to pattern Moss Mountain after the 18th century English garden concept of ferme ornee, meaning “ornamented farm.” Multiple 22 DeSoto

garden “rooms” comprise a mix of annuals, herbs, perennials, roses, shrubs and ornamental grasses. “Nothing thrives alone,” says Smith. “Each area is a micro-ecosystem, contributing to the health of everything around it.” This month, the farm opens for touring with a showy blanket of 400,000 daffodils, 150 varieties of which bloom in cascading sequence through May. Beyond the flower gardens – which include The Hidden Rose Garden inspired by Lady Elizabeth Ashbrook’s Arley Hall in Cheshire, England – are orchards filled with heritage apple trees, stone fruit and blueberries, a one-acre vegetable garden, a bluebird trail and wildflower fields. A variety of outbuildings, from barns to mobile chicken houses, populate the grounds and surrounding pastures. Smith’s residence, called Garden Home, is modeled after an 1840s Greek Revival farmhouse, and anchors the estate. Built new in an eco-friendly manner, the home overlooks the Arkansas River to the rear and is shaded by a 350-year old “Big Sister Oak” in front of the house. “In preparing to design our home, we visited

historic properties within a 175-mile radius. Among these were the Hunt Phelan mansion in Memphis – where we measured the window and door surrounds – plus two additional houses in Arkansas: Washington and Little Rock.” Lunch Tours at Moss Mountain include a tour of the main house, plus tours of the vegetable, rose and terrace gardens, as well as Poultryville. Chickens are a big deal at Moss Mountain Farm, mostly because of Smith’s commitment to promote healthy living and sustainability. “By 2050, the planet will be bulging with an additional two billion people, on top of the 7.6 billion we have now. Seed banks like those located in Norway, England and Colorado will play an important role in feeding the world’s population by preserving the biodiversity necessary to protect crops against disease. Efforts to preserve 60 heritage breeds of poultry will support the growing need for healthy sources of protein. “Right now, though, we enjoy sharing practical tips for raising chickens at our poultry workshops. I’m always pleased when visitors remark how beautiful the chickens are – which helps to explain why they were historically called ‘flowers of the barnyard’,” says Smith. In addition to hosting popular lunch tours by reservation on Thursdays and Fridays, March through June and September through December, Moss Mountain Farm is open to the public for weddings and other special events throughout the year. “We love to collaborate on custom workshops,” says Smith. “We’ve done special sessions on homesteading, making handmade soap, flower arranging and more. If somebody has a special interest, we’re eager to share what we know.” For more information, visit

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exploring art } sally markell

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Making her mark By Charlene Oldham | Photography courtesy of Sally Markell

When she developed tremors in her right hand, Sally Markell taught herself to paint with her left and, thus, embarked on a second career – eventually becoming a noted botanical artist. Sally Markell is accustomed to learning things the hard way. After a mild case of childhood polio left her with a slight limp. Markell’s mother thought dance classes would be an ideal way to minimize the effects of the virus. Although her physical limitations ruled out techniques like tap and dancing en pointe, Markell went on to have a successful 20-year career as a contemporary modern dancer and choreographer in New York City.

Then, in her early 40s, she began experiencing postpolio syndrome, which left her with a tremor in her right hand significant enough that she was unable to write or successfully bring a full soup spoon to her lips. That’s when a friend suggested she enroll in an art class on calligraphy to learn to write with her left hand. “So I went to art school,” said Markell, who relocated to Memphis in the 1980s. “I had no intention of being an artist.”   DeSoto 25

Sally Markell

The classes taught her to essentially be left handed, although it took her about eight years to retrain her body and brain completely. They also sparked a newfound interest in drawing and painting. But Markell didn’t want to focus on the abstract art in fashion among most art students and teachers at the time. “I wanted to learn to draw, to really, really draw… and the only people teaching it were the animal artists, the botanical artists and the bird artists because it was scientifically based.” Markell said she never had an interest in fine art or nature as a child growing up in suburban Ohio, where “trees were for climbing.” Although she didn’t start seriously studying art until she was 60, she’s since won medals in international shows and says her artistic abilities have outpaced her former skills as a dancer. “I think it’s an extraordinary anomaly in my life that my second career turned out to be a real profession for me,” said Markell, now in her 70s. She credits patience, persistence and good teachers, including botanical painters Katie Lee and Hillary Parker for her second act’s success. “In fact, I still sometimes send a drawing to them and say, ‘Would you look this over? Do you see a problem?’ So I have an outside eye -- like when a conductor would tell a violinist, ‘You’re a little off key.’ Everybody needs an outside eye.” Markell also counts Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and poet Mary Oliver as artistic influences. She admires the way Vermeer’s exquisite use of light created an atmosphere in his works. Similarly, Oliver deploys words to convey precise 26 DeSoto

observations of nature. Markell uses examples of both masters’ works when she teaches art classes at Dixon Gallery & Gardens and the Memphis Botanic Garden, where many of her students are master gardeners learning to draw the plants they love. “I hope that they give themselves the time to be quiet, to observe something carefully and try to capture their feelings about what they are looking at on paper,” said Markell, who also takes on private students. “That’s my motivation for teaching a class.” Markell incorporates movement breaks in the middle of sessions spent hunched over drawings and paintings. By bringing her unique background to bear, she lets others know it’s never too late to learn something new. “People say, ‘Oh, you’re so talented.’ And I say, ‘No, no. It has nothing to do with talent.’ This wasn’t something I was born with. This is something I worked at,” she said. “So, I know it isn’t just me. Any adult can learn. The brain is very facile. It’s very absorbent. But you just have to work.”    She’s also able to transfer her training as a dancer onto paper. The sense of space and movement she mastered then help add life to her depictions of birds and plants. Markell also tries to give her works metaphorical meanings. For instance, a piece showing a tulip trapped in the crook of a bare twig illustrates the perennial struggle between seasons. Another of two open-mouthed carnivorous pitcher plants back to back represents a bickering couple. “If the bird doesn’t look back at me, I know the painting will fail and I turn the paper over to start again,” she said. “With a plant, it has to tell a story.” She hopes her paintings and her efforts as an instructor help people hear the story being told by the natural world around them. And Markell, who maintained a robust garden for 30 years before recently moving into an apartment overlooking the Mississippi River, said the lush landscape of the South has plenty of tales to tell, although it’s up to humans to make sure they don’t end tragically. “If we observe and start to love the things growing around us, I am hoping we will learn to care more deeply for where we are living.”

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exploring books} perennials

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Perennials on the page By Karen Ott Mayer | Author photo by Andrew McNeece

Set in gardens around north Mississippi, “Perennials” by Oxford’s Julie Cantrell is an emotional tale of love, loss, and rebirth. Lovey and Bitsy. Names perhaps only heard in the South – or as imagined by author Julie Cantrell in her latest novel “Perennials.” As layered as a perennial garden itself, the story revolves around the complicated relationships often found between siblings, and in this case, two sisters. As Southern as Cantrell herself, the fast-paced novel takes place largely in Oxford, Mississippi, where one family struggles to overcome their past and bind together during celebrations and heartaches. Weaving literary and horticultural

locales from William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak to a New Albany garden, the story introduces the reader to many Mississippi settings – and all things Southern. “When writing about the South, stereotypes abound. While I couldn’t tell the story of Oxford without exploring football, Sunday School, and heirloom pearls, I hope I managed to add depth to the characters and to examine why these pieces of our culture mean so much to us, what they truly represent when we dare to scratch below the surface,” said Cantrell. Originally from Louisiana, Cantrell has lived around DeSoto 29

the country, settling in Oxford about 15 years ago. At that time, she was a mother and wife with no formal published books, but the area inspired her to pick up a pen and become an author. Absorbing details about real life in Oxford and north Mississippi, she not only narrates a lively, emotional tale but her characters resonate with anyone who has lived in the South: a gregarious, football coach father dotes on his wife whose first passions are her girls and garden. True for many Southerners, it’s the land and garden that becomes the milieu and metaphor for teaching life’s lessons. But Cantrell’s characters aren’t so singular they avoid what Cantrell calls “the same human journey.” As Lovey and Bitsy alternately try to understand each other’s experiences – and fail – they remind that sibling relationships bore certain patterns but change endlessly, especially with age and wisdom. “I’ve learned that regardless of a person’s wealth, gender, religion, or social status, we all share the same human journey. We all experience love and loss, glory and grief, hope and despair. And ultimately, we all just want to love and be loved. Some of us manage to do that, but some of us don’t. In Perennials, I try to explore life lessons that remind us what it really means to love one another,” says Cantrell. Cantrell’s novels themselves have been categorized in several genres including Southern fiction, women’s fiction, literary fiction, contemporary fiction, Christian fiction, romance and inspirational. Her first two novels took place during the World War II and Great Depression periods and lean to historical fiction. To her, it’s not the genre, it’s the story that matters most. “It’s all irrelevant to me as a writer. I just want to deliver a story that readers will enjoy. And hopefully, through the powerful tool of story, my readers will receive healing, inspiration, hope, encouragement, and a greater sense of empathy in their own lives.” In “Perennials” gardening remains the pivotal point of the narrative. The garden and memories of childhood times in the garden continually fill Lovey’s thoughts and actions. She struggles with her sense of belonging or lack of it throughout the entire novel. Cantrell’s own personal feelings about a garden mirror Lovey’s, having spent six years on a sustainable farm in Oxford. “I have always loved to work in the flower gardens. Maybe it’s the Southern girl in me, but I consider a day in the sun and the dirt to be good medicine.” She particularly loves stargazer lilies which inspired her to write the novel. “I also love peonies, dahlias, zinnia, and camellias. I guess, honestly, there isn’t a flower that doesn’t inspire me to stop and to notice all that is beautiful and wonderful about this great, mysterious universe.” Perhaps the one sentiment Cantrell doesn’t share with Lovey is her dubious perspective on the South, particularly small-town Mississippi. Having spent years out West, Lovey only slowly begins accepting her southern roots after her time at home in Oxford. Cantrell seems to have fully embraced her community and state. “Mississippians embrace the arts. Life here is a constant celebration of music, dance, writing, storytelling, dramatic arts, visual arts, and cooking – which I do consider an art. We are a people who have learned to transform our pain into beauty, our suffering into story and song. I can think of no more noble act than that, and I have felt proud to call this state my home.” No stranger to adversity, Cantrell imbues her characters with resiliency even when times are tough. It’s this philosophy that life is simply a choice between a warm open heart and darkness that drives Cantrell and her stories. “Life will sometimes take us down, leave us in ruins, bury us in a dark, lonely, cold space. When that happens, we have a choice. We can choose to remain broken, lost, hiding away in the dark. Or, we can choose to rise, reach for the light, and bloom again—like perennials. In the end, this journey is all about learning to love one another. Even when it’s hard.”

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into the wild } landscaping camp

Director of Landscape Services, Jeff McManus

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Landscaping Camp Growing Flowers and Fans By Verna Gates Photography courtesy of Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Foundation Retirement Attraction Program

Summer camp – a time to sing Kumbaya around the campfire and tell bad jokes and classic ghost stories. Or not. For adults, it means thinking outside of the boxwood. In Landscaping Camp, the only songs are the ones that vibrate from the throats of warblers as adults will be participating in three days of garden intensives. Set for May 25-27 in Oxford, Mississippi, the camp will explore everything from pruning to cutting flowers and to what herbs went into William Faulkner’s whiskies at Rowan Oak. Participants will indulge their passion for outdoor spaces with classes and field trips emanating from the Inn at Ole Miss. Landscape Camp emerged from the local pride in the University of Mississippi. Named the most beautiful college campus in America by numerous publications, Ole

Miss supplied the idea that others might be interested in their gardening acumen. Director of Landscape Services Jeff McManus is known as the genius behind the exquisite grounds. He agreed to share his secrets of creating beauty from nature’s palette when the camp launched to great fanfare last year. “Jeff is the reason people come to see the campus. Last year, we were amazed by the camp’s success and by the people who came from multiple states to attend,” says Rosie Vassallo, Director of Retirement Attraction for the OxfordLafayette County Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Foundation. DeSoto 33

McManus will teach campers how to grow and also how to “Prune Like a Pro.” The keynote speaker, he will discuss gardening and his book, “Growing Weeders to Leaders.” When he took over the campus grounds in 2000, McManus accepted a challenge with stagnant budgets and high standards. By growing his staff into leaders from the ground up, literally, he increased satisfaction in both results: plants and people. Native plants and other low maintenance garden inhabitants are among his recommendations for today’s landscape. He will sign his book after his talk. While McManus remains the star of the show, other Mississippi experts such as Donna Yowell will also speak. Yowell’s program about cut flowers was so popular last year, she was invited again this year to talk more about growing a personal florist shop. Yowell grew flowers for cutting at the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion, saving taxpayers’ monies spent on florists. After Yowell cuts the flowers, Nellie Neal, The Garden Mama radio host, will teach campers how to contain them. A certified master gardener and blogger/radio host, Neal uses container gardening for herbs, flowers and vegetables. Of course, while plants are beautiful to look at, they are also tasty. What Southern meal would be complete without fried okra or sweet potatoes? Connecting the garden to the table has long been the domain of Southern cooks. “Explore the links between the Southern garden, Southern food, and the Southern larder” will be presented by Melissa Booth Hall, managing director of the Southern Foodways Alliance. One of the more fascinating programs takes participants back in time, to when William Faulkner might have offered you a mint julep from the porch of Rowan Oak. Instead, you will study what plants, besides mint, were cultivated during the writer’s life at his beloved home. Aside from his fame 34 DeSoto

as a writer, Faulkner also lived off of the land. From bourbon enhancers to food plants, this field trip explores what grew on the estate. The tour is led by Ed Croom, a retired Ole Miss botanist and the author of “The Land of Rowan Oak, An Exploration of Faulkner’s Natural World.” While beauty may sound like a luxury, it is essential to building a community. Research proves that a beautiful space is a loved space: one of the top three factors in creating attachment and loyalty, to a town, city or neighborhood. Good Housekeeping estimates that 75 percent of homeowners spend time and/or money on their yards. Last year, 117.6 million people in the United States worked in a garden during the previous 12 months, according to Statista, the Statistics Portal. With 326 million Americans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that means that more than a third of everyone in the U.S. likes to garden. The statistics get even higher when it comes to retirees, which is where Vassallo comes in. “My job is to let people know that Oxford is a great place to live. Showcasing our university is our number one asset,” says Vassallo, who specializes in attracting people looking for a place to retire. In its second year, Landscape Camp is growing like a weed, so to speak. For adults, learning how to surround themselves with beauty is every bit as good as the roasted marshmallows of their youth. An early bird special for $300 per person (excluding hotel accommodations) is available through March 31. The camp fee increases to $375 on April 1. For information, contact Rosie Vassallo by email at or by phone 662-234-4651.

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table talk } boshamps seafood and oyster house

Boshamp’s Grouper and feta soufflé with spinach and citrus butter

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Gulf to Table:

Nothing but the freshest

By Julia Miller | Photography courtesy of Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House

For creatives, a dream job comes with a little bit of inspiration and a whole lot of freedom. Chef Andi Bell has been fortunate to find this ideal mix not once but twice with the Phillips family in Destin. Bell’s career, which began with a precocious “Coq au Vin” for his fifth-grade French class potluck, uniquely positioned him to partner with Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House owner Miller Phillips to open the restaurant on the Destin harbor. “I grew up in a family where everyone liked to cook,” he said. “I’ve always been around cooking – fresh vegetables and fresh fish.” Bell’s first restaurant experience began at 18 shucking

oysters for a seafood restaurant. From there, he knew he wanted to dedicate his career to the restaurant life. He went on to graduate from the Florida Culinary Institute in Palm Beach in his early 20s. He first came to Destin to work for the Flamingo Cafe, a restaurant owned by Phillips’ parents that stood where Boshamps is today. When it closed in 2003, Bell worked in several restaurants around the area searching for a fit as perfect DeSoto 37

Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House

as the Flamingo Cafe. Never fully satisfied, Bell couldn’t have been more excited when Phillips asked if he was interested in opening a new restaurant on the old sight. “Hell yea, I’ll do it again,” he said. They tore apart the whole restaurant and added 200 more seats. They wanted to retain the same concept with a more casual feel. To help shed the fine-dining qualities of Flamingo, Phillips and Bell took away the tablecloths and opened the restaurant up to the harbor. “We’re dog-friendly and, of course, family friendly,” he said. “There are all kinds of people – the regulars who bring their boats in to the families who saved all year for this trip.” They added two bars, a tiki bar and a bar on the beach, as well as took advantage of the large, sandy beach area. Food maybe the number one priority, but the restaurant also makes sure their guests are entertained with colorful beach toys, ring toss and corn hole games and comfortable hammocks, so both adults and kids can have fun. “It’s almost something you have to experience for yourself,” Bell said. “It’s like a really nice fish camp here on the harbor.” The name of the restaurant comes from Phillips’ sister, Ashley, who combined three labs, BoBo, Otis and Shug, and added Miller’s initials to come up with Boshamps. For Bell’s kitchen, he is dedicated to two culinary 38 DeSoto

ideas: a scratch kitchen and Gulf-to-table. As the only scratch kitchen in the area, they strive to source all their materials as locally and sustainably as possible. “Everything is handmade, from cutting vegetables to the sauces. Even my fried baskets,” he said. “The only thing I keep in my freezer is the ice cream.” There are only about two-to-three hours where no one is at the restaurant — prepping, cooking, serving or cleaning for the 1,300 patron they have a day. As for Gulf-to-table, Bell actually coined that phrase himself. In the spirit of farm-to-table restaurants, Bell sources his fish every morning. He said a lot of restaurants buy their seafood from wholesalers based in places like Atlanta or Birmingham. While the fish may have originated in the Gulf, they are bought from fishermen, frozen and shipped to warehouses hours away and back again to the restaurants. All those extra steps, result in larger price tags and a decrease in quality. To avoid this, Bell gets his fish fresh every morning and takes advantage of creating features each day. “Fresh is the key ingredient,” he said. “Love of food is the other key ingredient.” As a classically trained chef, he utilizes French techniques while also drawing on the flavor of Southern foods. With Spanish and French roots, he relies on his history with Southern culinary dishes as the inspiration for his current

Chef Andi Bell

dishes. As such, he avoids foods that are not indigenous, such as salmon and halibut. As for his favorite dish on the menu, Bell said he enjoys the pan-roasted grouper, with a feta cheese soufflé and tomato jam. For 20 years, Bell has found his place to thrive at a great location under a great family ownership. “I worked for the parents, and now I work for the son,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better place to be.” Boshamps is open seven days a week. During the week, the kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. On weekends, the kitchen stays open until 10 p.m. with live music on Friday and Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. On Sundays, they have live music from 3 to 6 p.m.

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exploring destinations } spring break on a budget

Tupelo Buffalo Park

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Spring Break on a Budget By Andrea Brown Ross Photography copurtesy of Andrea Brown Ross, Phillip Van Zandt, and Tennessee Safari Park

Mid-South families looking for family friendly and affordable spring break destinations have a variety of nearby options. Tupelo Buffalo Park Tupelo, Mississippi This small zoo with farm and exotic animals will not be an all-day adventure. However, the Tupelo Buffalo Park is great short excursion for limited-attention spans and for families with limited time. For an extra $3 per person, visitors can ride a tractorpulled trolley to the outlying zoo and buffalo area. The covered trolley allows visitors to get off their feet, feel a breeze, and

relax as their tour guide relays information about the pastured animals. “Seeing and feeding the buffalo was definitely the best part for my family,” said Julia Luther of Sarah, Mississippi. And if you’re worried that one of your little buckaroos might get that spark in his eye and hop the fence to ride a buffalo like a rodeo bull, you needn’t be. The park has a protocol they follow when allowing visitors to enter the feeding area including high fences. The tour guide also supervises the feeding. DeSoto 41

Children’s Museum of Memphis

“My nephews really enjoyed feeding the buffalo, even though they live on a farm and are used to being around large animals. This was a once in a lifetime experience for them,” shared Luther. The buffalo ride takes approximately an hour. Families can expect to spend about two hours at the buffalo park. A shaded picnic area is available. Parents, be warned, entry and exit require going through the gift shop. Plan accordingly. General admission is $11. Besides the buffalo tour, the park offers other outdoor activities, such as ziplining, for a minimal additional fee. Check the website for details. Children’s Museum of Memphis Memphis, Tennessee If you’re looking for a few hours or a full day of fun, consider the Children’s Museum of Memphis. With a variety of activities for all age levels, the whole family is sure to enjoy the experience. Ramona Johnson, the museum’s Public Relations and Marketing manager, said, “Come enjoy your spring break at CMOM. Ride our newly restored 1909 Memphis Grand Carousel with 48 horses and two chariots (one ADA-compliant). Sit in the pilot’s seat in an airplane cockpit, climb to the top of a skyscraper and learn about the power of wind. And, that’s just 42 DeSoto

the beginning.” The museum hosts an array of special events throughout the year. For example, The Wonderful World of Signing will be held on March 13, from 1-3 p.m. Children will be taught specific phrases they can use in specific exhibits. Children also will be rewarded for their efforts, according to Johnson. The Easter EGGstravaganza will be held on March 24 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. This will include a pancake breakfast, a photo with the Easter Bunny and a themed craft. Also, stay for the lavish Easter Egg Hunt that will include deluxe candy, chocolate bunnies and plush toys. Cost is $15 for members and $18 for non-members (excludes the museum and carousel). The museum’s befitting motto “where learning is play” allows children to be hands on with the exhibits. Emily Blair Brown of Hernando, agrees. “My young girls love to come here. In fact, we have an annual family membership. Each time we visit, it seems they discover something new,” she said. Admission is $15 and carousel rides are an additional $3. Parking is $4 for non-members.

Casey Jones Village Jackson, Tennessee Conveniently located near Interstate-40 about an hour east of Memphis, the Casey Jones Village allows families to learn more about Jones, the railroad engineer who became an internationally known folk hero after he saved many lives on his last ride in April 1900. Entry to the museum begins with a brief video of his story and the significance of his sacrifice. Following the video, guests meander through the exhibit looking at historical pieces that show Jones’ influence on 20th century culture. Visitors can board a train stationed on the track outside the museum to blow the whistle as well as see the Jones’ home. The tour ends in the gift shop where young children can play with train sets while parents browse. Admission is only $6.50 for adults and $4.50 for kids, ages 6-12. The village also has shops, mini-golf, a small farm, and other attractions. Perhaps the other most popular attraction, and definitely the best tasting, is the Old Country Store restaurant. Lunch buffets are $9.95, adults, and $4.95, children. “I loved the food! With such a huge buffet, it was easy to satisfy my three grandkids,” said Bonnie Brown of Coldwater, Mississippi. “The restaurant was busy, but we were seated immediately. They kept the buffet well stocked. It was well worth it.”

Tennessee Safari Park Alamo, Tennessee While in Jackson, why not make the quick drive to Alamo, Tennessee? The Tennessee Safari Park boasts over five miles of dirt roads. Guests can view and feed animals from all over the world in the comfort and safety of their own vehicle. Admission is $14 for adults and $10 for kids 2 -12 years. Be sure to check out the website for important information before your trip. Cash only is accepted at the gate, and the family pet will have to stay at home on this trip. No outside animals are allowed.

Tennessee Safari Park

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on the road again } ocean springs, mississippi

, s g n i r p Ocean S pi p i s s i s s i M

Ocean Springs – The City of Discovery Ocean Springs calls itself The City of Discovery because of French explorers who settled there in 1699. 9:00 Breakfast at the Tato-Nut Donut Shop. These delicious donuts are made from potato flour and melt in your mouth. The shop also serves gourmet coffee and expresso. Worth the wait in line! 10:00 Shop around downtown Ocean Springs. This charming Gulf Coast town offers everything from home accessories and locally made gifts to clothing and antiques. 11:45 Lunch at Government Street Grocery. The laid-back, causal vibe and great food keep customers coming back. Open for lunch and dinner, the diner has a large menu of hearty appetizers, soup and salads, juicy burgers and a variety of other sandwiches. 1:00 Walk a few blocks south to the Walter Anderson Museum of Art. Open since 1991, the museum is dedicated to the works and life of Walter Inglis Anderson, whose paintings depict the plants, animals, and people of the Gulf Coast. The museum also displays works by Walter’s brothers, potter Peter Anderson and painter/ceramist James McConnell Anderson. 3:00 Enjoy the outdoors and the beauty of the Gulf on a paddle board from Paddles Up Rentals. They welcome everyone of all ages and skill levels from beginners to experienced paddle boarders. If you prefer to stay on dry land, take a leisurely bike ride along the 15.5-mile Live Oaks Bicycle Route. Bike maps are available at the Chamber of Commerce. 5:00 Grab a pre-dinner drink at Crooked Letter Brewing Company. Tour the brewery and sample their award-winning craft beers. Wine and mixed drinks are also available. 6:00 Enjoy a delicious fried catfish or shrimp creole dinner at Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant on Fort Bayou. Located in an 1800s antebellum home set among 500year old oak trees, Aunt Jenny’s is a great place to watch a Gulf Coast sunset. The restaurant also serves fried chicken with all the Southern sides like coleslaw, fresh-baked homemade biscuits, and fried potatoes. 44 DeSoto

Upcoming Events: March Battle on the Bayou is an annual kayak race in Ocean Springs and one of the largest in the state. The competition welcomes kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards for a 9.5-mile race through Old Fort Bayou Blueways. Spring Arts Festival: Herb, Garden & Art, held the last weekend in March, is a celebration of spring and the arts with more than 100 artists, crafters and plant booths. Partnering with the local arts community, the festival emphasizes community arts and nature. May Taste of Ocean Springs Food & Wine Festival celebrates the dining culture of Ocean Springs with samples from a selection of local restaurants. August/September Artwalk Downtown Ocean Springs is an annual event held on Labor Day weekend. Enjoy potters, painters, sculptors, and more lining the sidewalks of local boutiques, galleries and restaurants in downtown. October Cruisin’ the Coast welcomes more than 5,000 classic cars to the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Sept. 30 – Oct. 7. During the week-long event, classic cars cruise around enjoying activities at different venues including three days in Ocean Springs with a Friday Night Sock Hop and Street Party, Chicks Picks Car Contest, live music and more. November Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival is known as the largest fine arts festival in the state. The event brings in over 400 artists, craft & food vendors and more than 150,000 visitors to the area.

For more information on any of these events visit or call 228-875-4424.

To plan your visit:

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greater goods } spring break

Spring Break









1. Dolce Vita Hiya Sandals, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 2. Teleties ponytail holders, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 3. Beach towels, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road Olive Branch, MS 4. Collegiate Swig bottles, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road Olive Branch, MS 5. Vineyard Vines t-shirts, SoCo Apparel, 300 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 6. Bee By the Sea products, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 7. Beach drink holders, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS 8. The Beaufort Bonnet Company kid’s swim suits, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 9. Waterproof device cases, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS

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greater goods } spring break

Spring Break








10. Spring T-shirts and hats, The Bunker, 2631 McIngvale Road #106, Hernando, MS 11. Insulated bottles, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 12. Tidewater sandals and flipflops, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 13. Quay sunglasses, Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 14. Beach towels, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 15. Coozies, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 16. Corkcicle canteens, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR

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Inspirational Southern Gardens By Mary Ann DeSantis

Photography courtesy of Mary Ann DeSantis, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, and Bellingrath Gardens

Public gardens are rich in history as well as beauty. The South has several world-renowned gardens, each with its own unique features. If you are looking for gardening inspiration, you will find it at one of these magnificent places. Botanical Garden of the Ozarks

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Dixon Gallery and Gardens

Dixon Gallery and Gardens

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Dixon Gallery and Gardens Memphis, Tennessee Claude Monet believed his greatest masterpiece was his garden, and like the great artist, the late Hugo and Margaret Dixon created a magical place in Memphis that has become their living legacy, much like Monet’s Garden became his. It’s appropriate the Dixon Gallery includes two paintings by the French master, highlighting an art collection that rivals those in major museum galleries. Open to the public since 1976, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens is a highly regarded venue that is a treasure not only for Memphis but for the entire Southeast. Its innovative and diverse programs, both in the arts and in horticulture, reflect the Dixon’s commitment to providing a richer cultural life for future generations. More than 100,000 people a year are touched by the couple’s foresight to bequeath their home and gardens for the public prior to their deaths in 1974. Known for their philanthropy and leadership, the Dixons established the Hugo Foundation, a separate entity that assists in funding the gallery and gardens in perpetuity. In addition to the 2,000 objects of art in the gallery’s permanent collection and numerous temporary exhibitions throughout the year, the Dixon campus encompasses 17-acres of formal spaces, woodland tracts, and flower gardens. Landscaped to resemble an English park in honor of Mr. Dixon’s British heritage, the outdoor spaces were designed to take advantage of native tree specimens and to preserve the integrity of the surrounding woodlands. Highlighted by “sacred geometry,” a design with ancient Persian origins, the formal gardens offer visitors a place for peaceful seclusion. But it’s the colorful variety of spring flowers around the property that create breathtaking arrays of color in the spring. “Everyone looks forward to seeing the daffodils and tulips,” says Amy Lawrence, communications associate for the Dixon. “This year, we’ve planted more than 120,000 bulbs.” In addition to the formal gardens, the Dixon is also home to the Memphis Garden Club Cutting Garden, which supplies fresh-cut flowers to the museum twice weekly. “It’s rare that gardens and museums have cutting gardens to provide DeSoto 51

Botanical Garden of the Ozarks

Botanical Garden of the Ozarks

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their own arrangements,” adds Lawrence. “Mrs. Dixon always had fresh-cut flowers in her home and it’s a tribute to her.”

Birmingham Botanical Gardens Birmingham, Alabama The traffic near the Birmingham Botanical Gardens was barely audible as I strolled through its thematic Japanese Garden on late afternoon last fall. The day had been chaotic, and the quiet Zen moments were welcomed. With more than 67 acres, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a cornucopia of beauty, nature, and culture. And it’s all free – even the parking – from dawn to dusk. “We’re a destination where a lot of people walk around or jog through every day,” says Henry Hughes, vice president of education for the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Indeed, more than 350,000 people visit annually for events, classes, or just to enjoy the 30 thematic gardens. Each garden is classified into one of three types: Collections, Nature, and Culture. Because my time was limited, I chose the 7.5-acre Japanese Garden, known throughout the South for its exquisite beauty and serenity. Considered one of the Gardens of Culture, the Japanese Garden has been popular since its 1967 debut – two years after the botanical gardens opened near Birmingham’s Mountain Brook area. The interwoven collection of gardens features traditional Japanese architectural and natural elements, including a karesansui garden with meditative boulders in a raked gravel bed, a bonsai house, a small lake filled with Koi, and a tea garden and house. “The tea house is one of the best, most authentic tea houses in the nation,” explains Dr. Bob Wendorf, a retired University of Alabama/Birmingham professor who volunteers to keep the Japanese Garden in pristine shape. Known as the local authority on Japanese aesthetics and culture, Wendorf said the roof of the tea house contained 6,000 handmade copper tiles. He has volunteered for 25 years at the botanical gardens, devoting the last 20 to the Japanese Garden. “The tea house was a place of DeSoto 53

Bellingrath Gardens

peace,” he says. “Japan was a feudal society and very class conscious but in the tea house, everyone was equal.” Visitors will enjoy all of the thematic gardens equally, as well. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens offers something for everyone – even a small-scale garden full of ideas for homeowners.

Garden, which Best Things Arkansas named as the second most romantic spot in the state. Not surprisingly, it’s often voted as “Best Place to Get Married” in Northwest Arkansas.

Bellingrath Gardens, Theodore, Alabama “Look what a wife will do to a perfectly good fishing camp,” Walter D. Bellingrath said after his wife, Bessie Morse Bellingrath, transplanted a few azaleas to his beloved “Belle Camp” on the Fowl River just south of Mobile. She soon “dressed up” the place with camellias and roses, and the couple eventually moved to the property full time in 1936. Little did they know Bellingrath Gardens would become a tourist attraction, but they got their first inkling in 1932 when they opened the property to a Depression-weary public for a day of azalea gazing. The response was astounding as the road between Mobile and the gardens became clogged. Often referred to as the “the charm spot of the Deep South,” the 65-acre Bellingrath Gardens is known for its 250,000 azalea blooms. I visited one May when more than 2,000 roses were in full bloom, and the first glimpse of the signature rose garden was a feast for the eyes — and the nose. In homage to Bellingrath’s civic pride, the layout has a familiar look. “The rose garden layout is in the shape of a Rotary Club wagon wheel,” explains Sally Ericson, Bellingrath’s public relations director. “There are about 75 different varieties of

Botanical Garden of the Ozarks Fayetteville, Arkansas What’s a garden without butterflies? Visitors to the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks don’t have any trouble spotting the winged creatures fluttering around Arkansas’ only butterfly house. It’s not just the butterfly house, however, that makes this botanical garden different. While most public gardens started as private gardens that were donated or endowed through large contributions, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks started as a grassroots effort in 1993. Volunteers came together to create “backyard gardens” to teach local residents about gardening. “Our uniqueness is that the garden is still a passion project among volunteers who keep the place running,” says Liz Atwell, communications coordinator. “We are still a young garden, and we do a lot with a little.” Today, the whimsical attraction features 12 individually themed backyard gardens clustered around the Great Lawn. The landscaped grounds showcase four seasons of native flora and fauna so there’s always something in bloom. More than 80,000 people annually visit the Botanical 54 DeSoto

Bellingrath Gardens

roses filling the cogs of the circle. That was the original 1914 design because Walter was a founding member of Mobile’s Rotary Club.” Beyond the rose garden is the “Great Lawn,” which stays green all year and has become one of Bellingrath’s iconic spots for photography and, of course, weddings. Seasonal flower beds, which are the largest in the gardens, border the vast open tract. Tucked away in the cool forest of cultivated landscaping is the 10,500-squarefoot Bellingrath home, which still contains its original furnishings, china, crystal and silver. Bellingrath, Mobile’s first Coca-Cola bottler, lived in the home alone following his wife’s death in 1943. The couple did not have children, and at age 80 Bellingrath founded the Bellingrath-Morse Foundation to assure the continued existence of the gardens. He died in 1955 at age 86. Bellingrath Gardens is open year-around, and every season offers a spectacular array of colors. Bellingrath himself may have said it best: “The gardens are like a beautiful woman with a different dress for each week of the year.”

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in small spaces (or no space) By Jason Frye

Photography courtesy of, and The Wealthy Earth

Think you don’t have enough space for growing vegetables? Not so, says one amateur gardener who has discovered tight spaces often make the best gardens.

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I grew up with gardens. Both grandparents had big gardens: rows of corn, tepees of beans, cabbage growing in neat lines, lettuce we’d cover with muslin to protect the tender leaves from frost, tomatoes planted so we’d have a crop from summer to September, sometimes watermelons or pumpkins but always onions and banana peppers. My dad’s dad, Papaw Bob, would roust me out of bed early on Saturday mornings to help him plant corn. Granny Thelma, my maternal grandmother, had me pick beans and help her prepare them for canning or for drying on homemade racks in the back yard. I’d run and get six ears of corn for dinner or two tomatoes to top our burgers or a bowl of lettuce and green onions for a salad. I’d water and weed and work… I hated every minute of it. That’s shameful to admit, but as a kid I detested gardening. Weeding was the worst, it was always too hot, something bit or scratched me, there was dirt in my shoe, I got a blister. More than that, I saw a stigma in gardening. It meant we were too ignorant or poor to just go buy an ear of corn in the store when we wanted it. Was I ever wrong. I realized how wrong when my wife and I bought our house and decided to grow herbs, flowers and tomatoes. We had no proper plot to till and tend, just a sunny deck and a too shady yard. We used pots, containers and planter boxes I built and turned out a good crop of squash, cucumber, tomatoes, herbs and more than a few bouquets that first summer; winter and spring brought lettuce, arugula and Swiss chard, and I loved every minute of watering and weeding and savored every bite. As it turned out, gardening in boxes and containers was perfect for us. With limited space and even more limited knowledge (not to mention tools), keeping us literally boxed in meant we had to be selective with what and how we grew. My wife bought a book, All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, and right on the cover it promised to show us how to “grow more in less space!” I read the book, she read the book and we applied some of Bartholomew’s practices to much success. Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening idea is simple: a 16-square foot garden – 4’x4’ – box filled with a rich soil mix and planted precisely to allow for maximum yield on a minimal footprint. He DeSoto 59

lays a grid of one-foot squares across the top to keep things organized, and in each square foot you can grow nine bunches of spinach, 16 onions or carrots, four bunches of lettuce or a large plant like cabbage or peppers. (He lays out other plans and includes a reasonably comprehensive index of plants, herbs and flowers and how many will fit in a square foot.) These principles apply to pots and other containers too, so you’re not stuck with the larger square foot garden that Bartholomew lays out; just estimate the size and plant accordingly. They also apply to smaller segments and different configurations of the square foot garden. You could build a 3’x1’ box to sit on your deck rail; make a 3’x3’ garden that’s just enough for easy maintenance and enough food to augment your farmers market shopping; or you could have a dozen big pots and planters placed around your patio. In short, you’re not limited to Bartholomew’s untreated pine lumber boxes. Pots and containers of almost any material (avoid pressure treated wood) that you buy or build (think of using cedar or cypress, which are pricier but rot resistant and attractive) would work. You can even discover new uses for old objects. Plant a salad garden in a wicker basket, a collection of herbs in a dozen separate pots of different sizes and shapes, even a series of small buckets hanging from your railing or off a wall. By shopping at a specialty garden shop you can find interesting and unexpected containers to pot up: an old (clean) olive oil can looks sharp with basil growing from it; strawberries do well in a window box; and imagine a few containers with corn stalks towering out of them. 60 DeSoto

You can also get out-of-the-box creative with planting and go vertical. Not just vertical in terms of building a trellis for beans or cucumbers to climb as they grow, but actual vertical gardens. Vertical gardens are ideal for tight spaces like urban balconies. On Amazon and at specialty garden shops you can find fabric totes that resemble a shoe organizer that might hang on the back of a closet door (but more attractive). Hang these on the wall, fill with dirt and plant them up with succulents or herbs or flowers and you’ve created a lovely, and likely edible, greenspace of your own. Head out to an architectural salvage yard or antique shop and look for a large set of storm shutters. When you find them, don’t worry if they’re not fit to keep a storm at bay, you’re going to clean them up, staple weed cloth to the back and the slats, then fill the space between the slats with dirt and start to plant; you’ll never be able to grow a zucchini or tomato in a planter like this, but you can grow trailing or tufting flowers and herbs, even succulents, in a planter like this. If you’re really tight for room – apartment with no balcony or deep window – you can get something like the Aerogarden, a miniature hydroponic grow kit that lets you have fresh herbs year-round in a space that takes up just a little more room than a toaster oven. Or you can find a community garden. Community gardens have risen in popularity in the last decade as urbanites have taken a liking to gardening and found spaces where they can grow vegetables, herbs and fruits

in a sort of co-op garden situation. Starting a community garden can be a bit of work, but there are a number of existing gardens, some of which you can discover at your local farmers market or organic food store, others may be members of the American Community Gardening Association, an organization devoted to promoting community through gardening. The website has interactive maps showing the location and contact information of community gardens across the United States. No matter how you garden – a one-acre plot or one pot on your patio, in a community garden or in your own back yard – there’s plenty you can grow in a small space.

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Taking it to The MAX By Julia Miller Photography Credits: The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience

Another new museum is set to open and will celebrate Mississippi’s rich artistic and cultural talents in an ultimate entertainment experience.


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The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience will be housed in a new building in Meridian, Mississippi.

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This gallery will allow visitors to explore artist communities around Mississippi and create their own cultural trail guides which will assist in planning cultural tours throughout Mississippi.

Visitors to the Juke Joint gallery will be immersed in the sights and sounds of a Mississippi music club. Many Mississippi music legends got their start in local music clubs and this gallery will allow guests the opportunity to experience these performances.

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Showcasing all the extraordinary talents that have come from the Magnolia State, the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience is set to open in Meridian on April 27. While the new Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson explore the state’s complicated history, The MAX celebrates the rich fertility of all creative genres that seem to emanate from the geography. In fact, The MAX strives to connect the impact of the artists’ past to the fruits of their labor. “Here at The MAX we like to say ‘it’s in the water,’” MAX Marketing Director Paula Chance says. “Close relationships to the land, community, home, church, people and places are some of the cultural influences artists with ties to Mississippi have experienced.” The exhibits at The MAX are divided into six groups: The Home, The People, The Community, The Land, The Church and The World. Each of the exhibits will feature a variety of writers, visual artists, musicians, actors and entertainment legends. Some of the biggest names include William Faulkner, Walter Inglis Anderson, Morgan Freeman, John Grisham, Jim Henson, Robert Johnson, James Earl Jones, Leontyne Price, Oprah Winfrey, Elvis Presley and B.B. King. “The MAX was always conceived as a place to recognize and celebrate Mississippians across all artistic genres,” Chance says. “There have been so many significant artists with Mississippi roots, it made sense to tell all their stories in one place.” B y h av i n g a v a r i e t y o f a r t disciplines under one roof, it gives the visitor the opportunity to learn about the lives of the most influential Mississippi artists throughout the years. “The MAX will strive to guide visitors to other towns and museums across Mississippi that offer more in-depth looks at many of the artists represented in the museum,” Chance says. “By showcasing a variety of artists, we hope to appeal to visitors with a wide range of interests and to inspire them through our exhibitions, live performances, classes and lectures, and other special events.” The MAX is a light-filled airy 60,000 sq. ft. building with a modern silhouette and large glass windows. The first floor includes a courtyard where The DeSoto 65

In the Land gallery, guests will learn how the beautiful landscapes of Mississippi inspire artists. A hands-on interactive will allow visitors to “create” art in the style of artists such as George Ohr and Theora Hamblett. People are influenced by their personal lives and their time at home. In the living room gallery, guests will learn about quilters, stitchery artists and writers that have used their home life as inspiration in their arts.

MAX will welcome dance and musical performances, readings, and plays by visiting students, homegrown artists and church choirs. There will also be studio space for creative workshops and education events. The Hall of Fame Gallery on the main floor is the museum’s showpiece. The Hall of Fame includes 18 artists chosen by a panel of experts and by popular vote that will be highlighted in the gallery. Each year, four or five artists will be added. The MAX is complete with an intimate rooftop terrace that provides spectacular views of the courtyard and nearby railway and Union Station. Unlike traditional museums, The MAX offers visitors many state-of-the-art interactives as well as artifacts. For example, in the Home exhibit, visitors explore where many Mississippi artists found their earliest sources of inspiration by gathering around the dinner table or sitting by the hearth. The Church exhibit allows visitors to sit in a quiet pew and take in stained glass windows. The World exhibit creates an interactive space that will inspire visitors to make connections, start dialogues, encourage relationships and showcase the breadth of Mississippi’s creative power. The MAX also features a Hollywood-Style Walk of Fame that leads from Mississippi State University’s Riley Center to the museum. The Walk was unveiled in 2009, and a total of 15 stars are installed on the sidewalks. In 2017, stars were unveiled for John Grisham, Jim Henson, Robert Johnson, Leontyne Price, Muddy Waters, and Richard Wright. The long journey to the museum’s opening day began in 2001 when the state legislature enacted a bill to establish the Southern Arts and Entertainment Center, Inc., which eventually was renamed The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience, The MAX for short. For nearly 15 years, those dedicated to The MAX worked diligently to raise money despite financial obstacles from Hurricane Katrina and an economic recession. The groundbreaking of The MAX took place on Oct. 3, 2015. 66 DeSoto

Since 2001, the State of Mississippi has pledged $29 million to the project, and private businesses and individuals pledged an additional $14 million. Once open, the museum is expected to attract 150,000 guests per year and generate millions of dollars annually for Mississippi’s economy. On top of that, the museum’s vision includes steering visitors to other museums around the state, which will benefit all Mississippi regions and their legacies, such as Tupelo’s Elvis Presley, Pascagoula’s Jimmy Buffett or Jackson’s Eudora Welty. Despite the long journey, The MAX is poised for success because of dedication from the museum’s leaders. Chance says her passion for the museum comes from her own roots. “I grew up in Mississippi, earned a degree in art from Mississippi University for Women in Columbus,” she says. “The opportunity to share the best of Mississippi to the rest of the world — artists like Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, George Ohr — is what inspires me most about The MAX.” By the end of next month, The MAX will be the perfect cornerstone to all those interested in Mississippi’s artistic endeavors, both past and present. To learn more, visit

Hall of Fame Artist Inaugural Class Music — Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Leontyne Price, Jimmie Rodgers and Muddy Waters. Writing — William Faulkner, John Grisham, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams and Richard Wright Performing Arts — Morgan Freeman, Jim Henson, James Earl Jones, Sela Ward and Oprah Winfrey Visual Artists — Walter Anderson and George Ohr DeSoto 67

homegrown } little birdie pillows

Tony and Susan Hardin

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Little Birdie Pillows By Robin Gallaher Branch | Photography courtesy of Susan Hardin

Cozy and creative pillows can instantly freshen up a room, and the Little Birdie might just have a message to inspire you as well. Susan Hardin loves birds. “I always have,” says the native Mississippian who has spent most of her life in Calhoun City. A perky silhouette of a puffed up little bird is the signature of her pillow company, The Little Birdie. The threeyear-old start up is now a busy factory with 15 workers in a downtown building of Calhoun City. Susan and her husband, Tony, co-own the business. Little Birdie started on faith in God and in response to a need. The Hardins’ faith told them that God seemed to be leading them in a direction to quit their jobs — Susan as a high school English teacher and Tony as a production and marketing coordinator — and go full sway, full time, and full energy into a new business. As with many things in life, the direction was not entirely new. For years Susan had made her daughters’ clothes

and had taken numerous sewing classes. Pretty pillows became gifts. Friends positively raved. At their urging, Susan took pillow samples to markets in Mississippi and received very favorable responses. For Tony, his marketing experience, leadership abilities, and business acumen acquired in many venues indicated the solid training required to operate a business. As for the need, well, it just kept growing. The couple has six children, one of them adopted from Guatemala. At the time, two were in college, two waited in the wings, and two were in a local secondary school. The couple saw a future with years of college payments. Yet looking realistically at the opportunity, the skills already in place, and the ongoing financial needs of a growing family, the couple faced the risk. “It took a lot of faith for me to stop teaching and for DeSoto 69

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Tony to quit his job and for us to go full time with pillows,” Susan says. The couple plunged, and the rest became a blur of mega-packed years of a growing family and a wholesale business that happened to spiral upward. “We now sell to businesses in all the states except Rhode Island,” Susan says. “We ship thousands of pillows a week.” She broke that down to an understandable time and number. “One pillow takes one-to-two minutes to make,” she says. That includes cutting, design transfer, sewing, stuffing, and packaging. The business is a family enterprise. Walker, a son in high school, gets workstudy credit for helping out at Little Birdie. Daughters Sarah, Reagan, and Emily design many of the pillows. Susan goes to market six-plus weeks a year, spending two weeks each in Dallas, Las Vegas, and Atlanta and several days at the Mississippi wholesale market in Jackson. The time is well spent, offering her numerous contacts and enabling her to spot any competition. “So far, nobody’s doing exactly what we’re doing,” she says. Anne Cannon, owner of Deco Direct, a 10-year-old retail and wholesale home decorating store in Tupelo, loves Little Birdie’s versatility and creativity. “I’ve been buying Susan’s pillows since she started. She’s always doing new things. Her work always sells. She’s on top of current trends,” Cannon says. In addition to selling in stores and online, the Hardins also work with mission groups to create custom-designed pillows for fundraising. Little Birdie pillows have some standardization. Products come in two sizes, 18 inches for the popular square pillow and 16x22 inches for the rectangular or lumbar version. The fabric and stuffing are polyester and are washable. Prices start at $30. The most popular pillow, “our bestseller” as Susan puts it, is “Be Still.” A green wreath rings the black words. “It’s part of a Bible verse (Psalm 46:10), ‘Be still and know that I am God’,” Susan explains. Almost anything can go on a pillow, including many of today’s trendy phrases, bible verses, town names and even zip codes. State-specific pillows are also popular, especially a gray-and-white one for the Magnolia State that says “Mississippi – 100% Made Local Y’all.” Cannon appreciates Little Birdie’s “sweet pillows for babies” and the sports pillows plugging Ole Miss and Mississippi State. A top seller last year in Tupelo was one with the phrase, “from cowbells to cowboys,” a pillow honoring Dak Prescott, a Mississippi State quarterback who became a Dallas Cowboy. Susan looks forward to Little Birdie’s upcoming fourth year. “We’ll keep going. We’ll see where God takes Little Birdie from here,” she says. “We’re excited about what He has in store for us.”

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southern gentleman } diy lawn care

Horticulturist, Chris Cooper

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DIYor Don’t You-Dare Lawn Care By Dave Houpt | Photopgraphy courtesy of Chris Cooper

Do-it-yourself lawn care can be enjoyable… but sometimes you need a professional. The secret is to know when to call for help. Have you thanked Pauline and Abraham yet? You know…the Levitts. Well, if you haven’t, you should. They pretty much changed your life. Abe and his boys, William and Alfred, are largely responsible for all the yard work you’re about to be doing. After World War II, there was a huge need for affordable housing. So, the Levitts planned and built several communities throughout the northeast – most of which were named “Levittown”. One of the defining characteristics of these new utopias was the presence of perfectly trimmed and neatly edged dark green grass in front of every home, which served no purpose other than to look good. Ordinary Americans could now join the ranks of the properly civilized upper classes. The idea caught on like kudzu, and here you are with the dubious honor of getting to keep all that civility – and America’s largest crop – alive and green once again. Some things are easy (and dare I say enjoyable?) to do yourself. It’s hard to beat the smell of just-shorn grass, the therapeutic rumble of the lawnmower, and the instant gratification of a good afternoon’s work. Step back with dirt under your fingernails to enjoy the color of the flowers you just planted, and (after your lower back stops hurting) you’ll stand a little taller knowing that you did it yourself. But not so fast. There are times you need to call in the pros, according to Dr. Chris Cooper, Shelby County Extension agent and host of WKNO’s “The Family Plot.” Cooper’s work centers around helping people care for their own landscapes. He pointed out that homeowners tend to have short memories when it comes to weather. “We forget we’ve had a brutal winter and then we wonder why our plants aren’t doing well,” Cooper explains. “March is a good time to begin scouting your property. Look for broken limbs and cracked bark. If a plant doesn’t bloom like it should, that’s also a sign that it is struggling. Brown leaves that should be green are probably the result of harsh winds draining them of moisture.” Now is the time to plant perennials you want to add or to move or divide the ones from last year. Remove dead plants so the space will be ready for new plants, and prune anything that isn’t healthy. But before you start hacking away, make sure you know how and when to do it properly.

“It’s the number one mistake homeowners make,” Cooper adds. “Wait until after flowering plants – like azaleas – bloom.” If you don’t wait, you may be singing, “Where have all the flowers gone?” next year. A quick YouTube search for “pruning” will get you plenty of examples on how to do it right. Weed control in your lawn is an area that homeowners should probably hand off to someone else. As the owner of a lawn spray company in West Tennessee, Cullen Beard regularly tackles the kind of issues that lawns present. “Really, anyone can do the work of lawn care,” he says, “if they know how large the area to be treated is, what the turf type is, what weeds are present, and when is the best time to treat all the different insects, diseases, and nutrient deficiencies. And they don’t mind spending the money to get the right equipment and products.” Many off-the-shelf products are available, but Beard cautions that they are often poor quality and low concentration. “They may not be as effective as a professional-grade treatment and can actually end up being more expensive per square foot,” he says. “And then, there’s that pesky need to read and follow the label. Too many people think if a little is good, then a lot is better.” Adding too much doesn’t work with baking, and it doesn’t work with lawn chemicals either. Both pros emphasized the importance of getting your soil tested regardless of whether you plan to handle things yourself or not. Testing kits are available through your county extension office or at labs like Waypoint Analytical in Memphis. A basic test will show the soil’s pH and the needed nutrients. Levitt and his boys went to a lot of trouble to make sure you could too. How much you are willing to take on yourself really comes down to time, knowledge, and money. If you’ve got plenty of each, then get out there and dig, prune, mow, and mulch your heart out. But if you prefer to leave it to the pros, you’ll find plenty of lawn care professionals who are happy to help. DeSoto 73

southern harmony } susan holloway

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Violinist Susan Holloway By Pam Windsor | Photography by Joseph Spence

Memphis native Susan Holloway’s music resonates with thousands of fans, but extreme stage fright almost derailed her career before it even began. Susan Holloway shares a special bond with the violin. Whether she’s performing Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” a hymn like “Amazing Grace,” or Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” her love of the instrument shines through with every note she plays. Her music has resonated with tens of thousands of fans who follow her on Facebook and YouTube and attend her concerts. It’s humbling for the Memphis native who not long ago wasn’t sure she’d ever play again. Holloway discovered the violin at the age of six when her parents took her to an Itzhak Perlman concert. “I fell in love with the violin,” she recalls. “I begged my mom for lessons. She said I was too young.” Her mother researched Shinichi Suzuki, the Japanese

doctor who believed that by starting children at age two or three, they could learn music as easily and naturally as they learn their native language. Holloway entered the Suzuki program and quickly showed a true gift for music. “I started at the school I was attending. Then they saw I had promise and transferred me to the program at the University of Memphis.” When she was in third grade she had an opportunity to go on tour. “Dr. Suzuki was bringing a group of children from Japan from the Suzuki method to tour with a group of children from the United States. So we auditioned and I got in.” DeSoto 75

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She met Dr. Suzuki, and performed at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. She was on her way to a promising future in music. “I was really good,” she remembers, “but as I got older I started messing up in public and making mistakes. Everybody does, but to me it was really devastating because I was a perfectionist. So, I developed a pretty debilitating case of stage fright.” She continued playing throughout high school, but refused any solo performances. Vanderbilt University offered her a scholarship for the violin, but she felt she couldn’t handle the anxiety. She attended Vanderbilt, but studied psychology and English instead. “I ultimately quit violin for years,” she says, looking back. She got married and had a daughter. She’d occasionally pick up the violin, but couldn’t get over her fear of performing. Conquering that fear seemed impossible until Holloway discovered it might be the only way to help her little girl. Holloway’s daughter was 2-and-a-half years old when she was diagnosed with Selective Mutism. “It’s an anxiety disorder where the child operates as a mute person in most social situations,” Holloway explains. “She would talk at home like a normal, outgoing child, but in public she wouldn’t let anybody hear her words.” The condition went on for years. “It was really tough. And I didn’t know that she would ever get over it.” One day, Holloway realized to help her daughter, she’d first have to help herself. “I realized she was doing with her voice what I did with, basically, what is my voice. And I said, ‘Okay, God, I’ve got to work this out before I can help her.’” Holloway began visiting a church and found herself inspired by the music.“I saw the musicians on stage and thought what they do has meaning. It’s making a difference.” She eventually accepted an invitation to join them. “It was in front of thousands of people. I’d never played that kind of music. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I thought, if this is what I’m supposed to do and it makes a difference to one person, then I can do it.” Through the church she made a connection that led to a group of Nashville musicians who began working with her. Over the past two years, they’ve helped her record half a dozen CDs. “I’m making up for lost time,” she says, with a laugh. Her music spans a variety of genres. While all of her covers are instrumentals, the lyrics are as important as the melody when she chooses a song. “I love playing songs with lyrics, which is the strangest thing because I don’t play words,” she says. “But I really think the words. I choose songs I connect with emotionally. Then, I take the lyrics and pour my soul into them.” Her search for meaningful lyrics has led to a new appreciation of Elvis. She always liked his music, but never connected on a deeper level, until now. “Elvis was a very emotional singer and I think that’s why his stuff connects with me. He sang from his heart.” She was especially honored to perform at Graceland in late 2016. Holloway has come a long way in overcoming her fear of performing and in turn, helping her daughter, now a successful college student. She’s happy to be back playing the violin and remains committed to a future in music wherever it may take her. “I don’t know what it’s going to look like exactly, but I know it’s going to work.

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in good spirits} the green line

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The Green Line at Bar DKDC in Memphis

By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of Bar DKDC

Easy-to-assemble cocktail honors Memphis’ Green Line bike and pedestrian trail. They say art reflects life, but in the case of Bar DKDC in Memphis, the art of the cocktail reflects Memphis’ long bike and pedestrian trail. Bar DKDC opened in 2013, not long after the first phase of the Shelby Farms Greenline was unveiled, a railsto-trails project connecting Midtown Memphis through Shelby Farms Parks to Cordova. This renovated Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway line now offers a longpaved thoroughfare that’s shaded, quiet and flat and is popular with bikers and hikers. Karen Carrier, owner of Bar DKDC, wanted to honor this new city venture so her establishment came up with “The Green Line,” a cocktail featuring muddled cucumber, lime, St. Germain, mint and organic Artist Vodka, small batch vodka created with organic wheat and pure water. It’s a refreshing cocktail that mimics that back-to-nature emphasis of the Shelby Farms Greenline, she said. “This cocktail honors Memphis’ true game changer, one of the most significant crown jewels in our urban rural city,” Carrier said. The drink is the brainchild of former Bar DKDC waiter and mixologist Billy Worley, who helped open the restaurant, Carrier explained. Like other cocktails served at the bar-restaurant, the ingredients are few and easy to assemble, due to the establishment’s busy atmosphere. “We wanted to keep our drinks simpler,” Carrier said. Worley now works in the film industry but he’s a bit of a legend at DKDC, Carrier said. He visits the bar about one night a month and always gets a friendly reception. “Everybody loves to come see him,” the Memphis native said. “He’s very personable and everybody loves him.” Carrier received her bachelor of fine arts from The Memphis Academy of Arts and headed to New York for graduate school. She stumbled into the catering business with

Susana Trilling — a renowned restauranteur who now runs Seasons of My Heart cooking school in Oaxaca, Mexico — and the duo opened several restaurants in the city. Carrier opened her own restaurant, Automatic Slim’s, in New York before returning to Memphis. In addition to Bar DKDC, Carrier is the owner of Memphis’ Another Roadside Attraction Catering, The Beauty Shop Restaurant, Noodle Doodle do and The Mollie Fontaine Lounge. She is the previous owner of Automatic Slims Tonga Club, which she sold in 2008, and Do Sushi, which she turned into Bar DKDC, the name of which stands for “Don’t Know, Don’t Care.” Bar DKDC serves up small plates that range from Southern favorites to global dishes in a fun, eclectic atmosphere. Live music is also on the menu, as is a vintage photo booth. And, of course, there’s a colorful and innovative cocktail menu, offering interesting names such as Get on the Good Foot, Dark N Stormy and Blue Suede Tini. The following is the recipe for The Green Line.

The Green Line

Organic artist Vodka Muddled cucumber Mint Lime St. Germain Directions: Mix all ingredients together. Serve.


964 S. Cooper in the Cooper-Young District of Memphis (901) 272-0830 DeSoto 79

exploring events } march Beneath the Surface: Life, Death & Gold in Ancient Panama February 3 - May 6 Pink Palace Museum Memphis, TN For ticket information call 901-636-2362 or visit Legends of Motown: Celebrating The Supremes March 3 - September 3 GRAMMY Museum Mississippi Cleveland, MS For more information visit or call 662-441-0100. Winter Jam 2018 Tour Spectacular March 3 FedEx Forum Memphis, TN 6:00pm For Further information visit, turningpointpr. com or Methodist Healthcare Mental Health Breakfast featuring Marlee Matlin March 6 Hilton Hotel Memphis, TN Proceeds from the event will benefit the Dennis H. Jones Living Well Network, a mental health program of Methodist Healthcare that seeks to promote understanding and improve access to behavioral health resources and care. For more information visit or call 901-516-0500. Dancing For Our Stars Benefitting the Baddour Center March 10 The Landers Center Southaven, MS 6:00pm For more information visit or call 662-366-6930. Gary Allan March 10 Horseshoe Casino Tunica Resorts, MS 8:30pm For tickets visit, or call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. Natchez Spring Pilgrimage March 17 - April 17 Natchez, MS For more information visit or call 601-446-6631. Disney Live March 17 BancorpSouth Arena Tupelo, MS For tickets visit, call 1-800-745-3000 or visit Grown Folks Spring Break Concert March 17 Landers Center Southaven, MS

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7:00pm Purchase tickets at Landers Center box office 662-470-2131, or call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. Author event with Michael Farris Smith: The Fighter March 21 Turnrow Books Greenwood, MS 5:30pm For more information call 662-453-5995 or visit Viking Half Marathon & 5K March 24 Greenwood, MS For more information contact the GreenwoodLeflore Chamber of Commerce at 662-453-4152, info@ or vikinghalfmarathon.racesonline. com/. Claws For a Cause Presented by Junior Auxiliary Tate-Panola March 24 South Center Street Senatobia, MS 6:00pm - 11:00pm All you can eat crawfish, live auction, beer and wine and live music by Aquanet. For ticket information visit Cedar Hill Farm Annual Easter Egg Hunt March 24-31 Cedar Hill Farms Hernando, MS Egg hunts run continuously throughout the day; check for times. Children 2 years and under are free. Purchase tickets online. For more information, call 662-429-2540 or visit Creative Aging’s Senior Arts Series March 28 Theatre Memphis Memphis, TN 1:30pm Ron Jewell as Mark Twain with songstress Joyce Cobb and the Boscos Trio Band performing songs from Twain’s era. Minimum donation of $5 cash or check at the door or Advance purchase tickets available online at More info at or 901-272-3434. Indigo Girls March 30 Germantown Performing Arts Center Germantown, TN 7:30pm For tickets visit or call 901-751-7500. Oxford Bourbon Festival March 30 - 31 The Lyric Theater Oxord, MS For schedule of events and ticket information visit or call 662-234-5333.

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reflections} a rebel against the tyranny of the lawn

A Rebel Against the Tyranny of the Lawn By Verna Gates

Letting Mother Nature handle the landscaping offers many benefits.

It’s Saturday afternoon and my neighbors are vigorously pushing noisy and seemingly stubborn rotating blades across their yards. I enjoy sipping tea, or perhaps a mint julep, and watching them, as watching people work just relaxes me. As I have never owned a mower, I shake my head and dig into a good book, no shovel needed. You see, I am a rebel against the tyranny of the lawn. When I bought my first house 22 years ago, I decided that I didn’t want to grow a chemically addicted monoculture. It makes no sense to me to try to force something called Bermuda grass to grow somewhere besides Bermuda. When we have perfectly lovely native plants uniquely suited to the soil and climate, why bother? The natives gladly move in and spread happily, creating a wealth of color and diversity. You have to work to keep them out! One of my neighbors goes over her lawn with a spoon to dig out those pesky flowers. One could have read War and Peace in the time she spent last summer attacking innocent little violets and (gasp) dandelions. I choose to grow wildflowers. I live in Alabama, one of the top five states in biodiversity. I founded and run an education program called Fresh Air Family that takes thousands of people out to see our beautiful plants and landscapes every year. I wouldn’t trade my trilliums, yellow hibiscus, tiger lilies, columbines, trout lilies, or passion vines for all of the grass in Bermuda. Quite a few of my 100-plus species of plants are rare and endangered, such as the Alabama Croton, which turns 82 DeSoto

flaming orange in the fall -- too bad I’m not an Auburn fan. From February (the rare Alabama snow wreath) through November (native sunflowers), I enjoy color, fragrance and wildlife. While literally hundreds of blooms pop in my quarter acre city lot, the flowers only paint part of the color. Natives attract birds and butterflies. A little yellow finch loves my sunflower seeds. My passion flowers hatch dozens of Gulf Fritillary butterflies. Seeing a butterfly, fresh out of his cocoon, pumping out new wings on the porch never fails to thrill me. Added benefit: I get to avoid all of the negatives of lawn chemicals. A new study shows that cancer in dogs has increased due to herbicides. So, what is it doing to us? These chemicals run into our rivers and streams, polluting our waters. Pesticides mimic estrogen in the body causing issues for women and men. While some cultivars do attract birds and butterflies, they are the flower version of the Twinkie. Instead, I let Mother Nature stand in as the ultimate Master Gardener. I spend about six Saturdays a year helping her out by planting and tending. While weeding a wildflower garden seems a classic oxymoron, still a few plants can get too exuberant. And I don’t need fertilizer; the dead leaves from my trees take care of that, for free, with no effort. I don’t own a leaf blower, either.

DeSoto Magazine March 2018  
DeSoto Magazine March 2018  

Green and Growing - Spring is in bloom! Time to reconnect and refresh through gardening and growing.