Reynolda Gardens Cultivate: Fall/Winter 2022

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HOURS Gardens Dawn to dusk Greenhouse Tuesday–Friday: 10–4 WEB SOCIAL @reynoldagardenswfu / reynolda.gardens EMAIL TELEPHONE 336.758.5593

Wild Reynolda by Amy Dixon

Reynolda-Inspired Activities for Kids & Families by Forrest Allred Borage: A Bearer of Bees, Bliss … and Betrayal by Joey Martin Reynolda Gardens Orchid Buds by Hayden Shuping

Making Waves in the Vegetable Gardens by Michelle Hawks

The Soul of a Gardener: Nancy Neill Spencer by Amy Dixon

Celebrating the Future of Reynolda Gardens

New Friends of Reynolda Gardens

Tribute Gifts

On the cover: Brilliant red spider lilies bloom at Reynolda each fall. / Photo: Ken Bennett

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Dear Friends,

Reynolda Gardens is steadfast in its commitment to serve as a horticultural oasis for the community. While landscape architects originally advocated for the Formal Gardens to be an extension of the main residence, Katharine Smith Reynolds wanted her gardens to be an extension of the greenhouses. This design allowed the gardens to be accessible to the estate’s guests from Reynolda Road. Now, we welcome tens of thousands of visitors each year to connect with nature in a setting that inspires.

As we reflect on our history, we also look to the future. Cooler nights and the smell of Osmanthus (tea olive) let me know that fall has arrived, the time of year when we begin to wind down the growing season and prepare for winter. For Reynolda Gardens, this season has typically been a time of increased activity as projects commence. Indeed, 2022 is shaping up to be a banner year.

Thanks to the continued support of our donors and Friends, and in large part due to a successful fall fundraiser (see pp. 20–21), the Lower Formal Gardens will soon see a flurry of activity. A complete refresh of the Pink & White Garden, Blue & Yellow Garden, and central walk beds will begin. Brand new slate walks—widened to allow for greater accessibility—will frame these spaces. Additional electrical work and more drainage, crucial to improving the Gardens’s infrastructure, also will be completed. Finally, the English boxwood hedges framing much of the interior spaces will receive a whole new changeout, as more than 40% of the hedges are drastically undersized, in poor health, or missing altogether. We plan to emerge in March having brought this area to its full potential.

Planting new areas and the eradication of invasive plants will continue along the trails we have worked on over the past year. Improvements along the trails will continue, thanks to generous donors like Nancy Neill Spencer who prioritize this care in their gifts to Reynolda Gardens (read more about Nancy on p. 18).

This shared vision for the future would not be possible without the support we receive from you, Friends of Reynolda Gardens, and for that we are humbled and grateful. We take our stewardship of this unique landscape seriously, knowing the impact that Reynolda has on so many people, in so many remarkable ways.

See you in the garden.

Jon Roethling

Wild Reynolda

For those who regularly visit the Gardens, chances are you’ve encountered some form of wildlife. In and around the Formal Gardens and out on the trails, Reynolda is most certainly an urban sanctuary for a multitude of animals.

Of course, our squirrels and chipmunks are a healthy brood, scampering above our heads and across paths almost everywhere we go. Whether working in the garden or watching them from my office window, I study their daily activities—their precise decisionmaking about where to dig for hidden hickory nuts, their comical stealthy struts across open pathways, and their incessant chattering and fussing about, well, everything.

Although cute in their own right, these rodents are a pest in the Formal Gardens, digging holes, stealing tomatoes, and gnawing the cedar shakes of the tea houses. They drive most dogs crazy, leisurely moving from point A to point B, with no worries of a chase because of those six-foot leashes. But for all their annoying antics, they do add to the quaint, picturesque vibe of the Gardens.

This year has been filled with all sorts of wildlife encounters. Visitors and staff alike have had some up close and personal run-ins with deer, hawks, snakes, and owls. I’m sure there are some patient individuals who have even caught a glimpse of the beavers living in the Lake Katharine wetlands. For each of these encounters, people are connecting with nature, learning to listen, and ultimately making memories at Reynolda.

I’ve had an owl-centric sort of year, which started in October of 2021 when I had my first close sighting of one of our resident barred owls. I had heard them many times before and even seen them briefly when I startled them on my early morning runs. But when I got that first good look at one, I was captivated. They are very curious creatures: beautiful, huge raptors that can arrest your attention.

From that first encounter, my owl sightings grew and grew. By late spring of this year, I was seeing an owl almost daily, which I thought was strange. It didn’t take me long to figure out that our population

of barred owls was simply growing. A mated pair of barred owls was raising three owlets, leading to sightings of multiple owls at once. Magical, right? Ehh, kind of. Let me be the first to tell you that owls are keen on protecting their territory.

One afternoon, I saw all three young owls hanging out in nearby trees above one of the woodland trails. They saw me, clicked their beaks (a cordial greeting, as I interpreted), and we all went about our business.

After work the next day, I went for a run along these same trails. My eyes are always on the trees, and I spotted one of the fledgling owls sitting on a tree branch directly above the trail I was heading up. As I approached him, I watched and listened as he squawked at me, rotating his head in a circular manner. I kept my pace, not stopping to observe as I normally would. I passed under his branch and continued up the hill, leaving him to fuss at someone else. Within just a few seconds, I felt his talons on my scalp and the wind from his massive wings as he flogged the top of my head.

Unharmed but rattled, I unleashed a verbal tirade on the owl, letting him know exactly what I thought of his aggressive and unnecessary behavior. The owl was not shaken. In fact, he flew into an even lower tree


branch and proceeded to pick up where he left off, resending all the warning signs that I was invading his space.

I took a couple of lessons away from this scary owl encounter. First, owls are territorial, especially young owls figuring out how to establish their territory. Second, don’t get mad at Mother Nature because you became complacent with the resident wildlife. It sends bad vibes into the universe. Above all, be observant of wildlife—but be smart!

Apparently, I’m not the only one who got a frisk to the noggin from a young owl. At least two other visitors have reported losing their hats to one of our barred owls as they worked to establish their territories. Fortunately, the owls have been quiet lately and less visible, leading me to assume that some have moved out of Reynolda and others have settled in.

Deer are common at Reynolda, and we had the pleasure of regularly seeing a doe and her fawn throughout most of the summer. I would quite

often see them in the woods or on the front lawn of Reynolda House. Michelle, Joey, and Jon would see them along the meadow’s edge in the early morning. Joey started referring to the pair as Mama and Lil’ Lightning, and the names stuck.

Seeing deer out in the greater gardens is always nice, since we don’t like to see signs of them coming through the Formal Gardens. We prefer to prune plants ourselves, without the unnecessary help of the resident deer.

Reynolda has always had a healthy population of hawks; they circle the skies above the Formal Gardens and meadow expanse daily. One particular red-tailed hawk made himself right at home in the Formal Gardens this season, getting a little too close for comfort sometimes. He started by sitting on top of the tea houses, then moved on to perching on the fence of the vegetable garden. He eventually got brave enough to light on a bare obelisk, where he seemed to command attention.

We weren’t sure what he was after, getting so close, but we hopefully assumed he was trying to get a snack of moles or voles. Michelle has dazzled us with her photography skills, capturing some amazing photos and videos of these “close” encounters. (Flip back a page to see her work!)

A visit to Reynolda always includes wildlife, even if it’s just a pesky squirrel. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to witness a resident black snake patrolling the Pink & White Garden or a snapping turtle sunning itself in the wetlands. It’s nice that Reynolda can serve as a wild sanctuary in the heart of WinstonSalem, a place where visitors can enjoy, observe, and learn to appreciate and respect nature.


Reynolda-Inspired Activities for Kids & Families

During the height of COVID-19, I was in search of things for my three youngest daughters to do, in light of so many activities having become inaccessible. My youngest daughter, now 4, enjoyed Blippi and Pooh, puzzles, coloring, the swing set, and the occasional bear hunt (a short walk in the neighborhood). My older two daughters, however, wanted to do more— and I certainly wanted them to do more than sit with their electronic devices. My wife, Donna, and I began to look outside the box in order to find activities for our girls. Here are some things we did, any of which I would suggest to others:

Consult the Reynolda website and seasonal guide.

Visit and explore the Youth & Family page for some creative ideas. There are many options for history, art, gardening, and crafts. Both the website and the printed seasonal guide highlight the Reynolda Gardens Tuesday Gardening Series. Fall and winter workshops at Reynolda include leaf casting and wreath decorating workshops. Best of all, after gaining knowledge at a workshop, you can do these activities at home.


Prior to the pandemic, Reynolda Gardens offered a fantastic summer day camp called Young Naturalists—a one-week program where kids engaged in science experiments; planting and harvesting in the Formal Gardens; and exploring the Greenhouse, woodlands, meadows, and streams of Reynolda with staff and volunteers. My oldest daughter, now 24, grew up going to Young Naturalists many summers here at Reynolda, and she has fond memories of the activities.

During the pandemic in the summer of 2020, the most exciting thing Donna and I did was create our own Young Naturalists. Based on our experience, I can offer several suggestions. Instead of this running on consecutive days, consider exploring and planning activities over the course of a few weeks. Have kids explore our many mountain sites nearby. Teach them the importance of our waterways, and let them explore one. Plant-based arts and crafts such as pressing flowers, resin art, or natural dyes are fun and engaging activities for kids. You could utilize a theme such as the pollinator garden. One year, you might allow garden space for gourds or pumpkins to grow and later be painted.

Take them on “bear hunts” (a.k.a. hiking).

Based on Michael Rosen’s children’s book We’re Going

On A Bear Hunt, my youngest daughter and I decided we would go on bear hunts together. Reynolda has a number of trails to explore that meander around historical structures, ponds, a meadow, and a stream.

I have learned that most children love to climb and get wet. Hanging Rock State Park is another good destination and is roughly an hour or less from any point in Winston-Salem. I suggest the Indian Creek and Riverbluffs trails. One August, while hiking along the Riverbluffs trail, we enjoyed the fruit of wild muscadines and pawpaws. Pilot Mountain State Park is close to Winston-Salem, too. The Bean Shoals access trail on the Yadkin River has two creek crossings, which children enjoy. Always be on the lookout for the wildlife, as that’s half the fun.

We are still looking for the bear. Last year, we were on vacation at Oak Island and, while we didn’t see that bear, we did get up close to a wild alligator in a drainage ditch. Within reason, and while considering park and private property regulations and guidelines, let kids explore.

Check the horizon for community events that your kids would enjoy.

Next spring, Reynolda House will host Community Day on April 29. This is a great event full of kids activities. In addition, consider a festival, pumpkin patch, or corn maze in the fall. Horne Creek Farm in Pinnacle hosts an annual Corn Shucking Frolic. The Pawpaw Field Day is held annually in September at the N.C. Cooperative Extension in Forsyth County. Historic Bethabara Park hosts a multitude of different events throughout the year. Century Farm Orchards in Reidsville has open house days for apple tasting and apple tree purchasing.

Create your own Young Naturalists summer program.

Construct a fairy house at home.

While walking through the gardens at Reynolda, I have come across many unique natural materials to use for fairy houses: squirrel-gnawed pine cones that look like little trees, bark peeled off old fallen trees that resembles stacked logs for siding, and double goldenrod galls that resemble light posts. This year, Horne Creek Farm hosted the Fantastical World of Fairy Tales and Houses. There is a plethora of books and resources on the topic of fairy houses, as well as occasional local workshops.

Visit a garden that is a little different or operates outside the box.

This summer, a young boy walked through the garden and asked if we had any Venus flytraps on display. This reminded me that I have never led a school group where children were not excited to see a Venus fly trap. Well, we’ll have these unique plants soon enough, as we’re currently in the process of gathering plant materials for a bog area here at Reynolda. The bog plants should be installed this fall, along the new boardwalk at Coliseum Drive, and will include a selection of carnivorous plants.

Another unique garden to visit is the Green Swamp off of NC-211 in Supply, N.C. The Green Swamp contains

at least fourteen different species of insectivorous plants that include populations of Venus flytrap, sundew, butterworts, bladderworts, and pitcher plant.

Grow a family garden.

When I was a teenager, my dad had me take over the family garden. That year, we had so many bananas that I was helping mom make banana bread as well as selling them at a local farmers market. Consider having one or all of your children plant a garden. Have them experiment with foods you may enjoy in a meal. Let them share or sell their harvest. If your family enjoys fresh fruits, add grapes, blackberries, and raspberries to your garden. Let your children experiment with cooking, freezing, making their own jelly, or baking.

Raise livestock on a small scale.

In 2019, Reynolda hosted Frank Hyman of Hentopia fame to discuss the idea of backyard chickens. This inspired me to raise chickens, so last year we purchased our first four hens. We now have seven. On the property at Reynolda we don’t have livestock, but historically Reynolda had horses, sheep, cows, and chickens. I’m not recommending you go out and purchase a horse, but maybe consider some chickens if you enjoy fresh eggs. Let your children explore the joy of having livestock, but also learn about the responsibility of caring for these animals. You might just have a future veterinarian in the family.


Borage: A Bearer of Bees, Bliss…

and Betrayal

That was my eyebrow-raised reaction the first time someone brought borage to my attention. After realizing they were talking about a plant, my heart swooned upon seeing it. It was miscommunication at first sound, but love at first sight.

Borage (Borago officinalis) is a native annual Mediterranean herb with explosive blue-purple flowers and prickly leaves. There is also a whiteflowered cultivar named alba. The popular theories on how borage got its name stem from its Italian, French, and Latin counterpart words which translate to “wool,” referring to the hairs that cover the stems and leaves. Both leaves and flowers are edible, as are the seeds that are extracted for their oil. Borage typically grows twoto three-feet tall, thriving in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. It’s hardy in USDA zones 2-11.

For centuries, borage has been used in many cultures for its medicinal qualities. Ancient Greeks used it to bring joy and comfort to a sorrowful heart. Roman military leaders served their troops wine infused with borage to hype the soldiers up with courage before battle. The seventeenth-century botanist John Gerard’s book, Herball, mentions an old Latin phrase, “Ego Borago, Gaudia semper ago,” which translates to “I, Borage, bring always joys.” Even today, borage is popular in countries such as Iran, where people use the plant as a tea to relieve ailments like colds, flu, and bronchitis.

After that first enchanting experience with borage, I knew it was going to be a main feature in my next summer garden. Even without wine-infused borage, I was already exhilarated and fearless as I began my borage journey.

I set about planting my borage seeds a little bit differently than the norm. Ideally, you want to directly sow the seeds in the ground after your last frost date— but with me being the person I am, that was just a little too long to wait. I wanted to begin transplanting

an actual plant into the ground around that time, even though borage doesn’t like to be transplanted.

One way to work around this is by using biodegradable seed-starter pots. These handy little peat pots allow me to start my seed in the greenhouse six to eight weeks before the last frost date and directly plant the borage in the ground without any root disturbance. This is important, given that borage develops a long, sensitive main taproot.

Here is where the freedom to fail and the environment to learn at Reynolda Gardens made this an experience full of lessons. Out of the eighteen borage seeds sown, fourteen of them either did not germinate or failed to survive getting to their first true leaves. I ended up having four weak borage seedlings that I was hoping would make it to mid-May.

Other local gardeners had similar results with their borage being sown in small, biodegradable pots. Their seeds either failed to germinate or produced puny seedlings. I did directly sow a few seeds in the ground and actually got to see one borage plant grow. It was thriving weeks before the last frost date, fighting and surviving cold snaps and freezing temperatures since March. I was in awe, and baffled.

That is one thing with plants that still makes me chuckle and throw my hands up in appreciative frustration. Sometimes you just can’t outsmart a plant. You can overanalyze and coddle the plant all you want, but Mother Nature is going to prevail in her own gorgeous way. All you can do is shake her hand with appreciation.

This brings me to the biggest lesson I have learned about the growing of borage: they just love to be in the ground. Once I put my borage into the ground (and another into a very large container), they flourished. They bushed out, budded, and eventually hundreds of star-like flowers blossomed within two to three weeks. It was a spectacle to watch.

So, given these results, next year I will either direct sow the seeds or start them inside much closer to the last frost date so they can be transplanted into the ground more quickly.

“Porridge? It’s ninety-five degrees outside, I’ll pass. Thank you, though.”

One of the biggest benefits of borage is its power to attract pollinators. Bees go absolutely bonkers for borage. Especially at my house, where the lack of pollinators has delayed fruiting in the past, borage has become a beacon for pollinating partying.

While attracting bees, borage also does a respectable job of deterring some common garden pests. Japanese beetles, cabbage worms, cucumber beetles, and tomato hornworms are some insects that borage will repel. This quality makes borage a wonderful companion crop for tomatoes, cabbage, and cucurbits. Strawberries are a huge benefactor of borage companion planting, too. Borage adds trace minerals back into the soil that help improve flavor and growth of strawberries.

As I have mentioned earlier, borage has been used in food and as herbal medicine for centuries. You can eat the flowers raw right off the plant and experience a light cucumber flavor. Nowadays, borage is used more as a garnish. It can be featured as a ravishing topping for salads, dips, or my personal favorite: borage flower ice cubes.

These easy-to-make, eye-catching borage flower ice cubes usually make their appearance in a fruity cocktail or mocktail. If you are intrigued enough to add this little bit of pizazz to your next shindig, it’s quite simple:

Fill up an ice tray halfway with water and put it in your freezer until frozen. Empty out these half ice cubes from the tray and proceed to put your borage flowers into the bottom of the tray. Next, put the ice cubes back on top of the flower, and fill the tray up with cold water. Place it back in the freezer until all is frozen solid.

This half ice cube on top method helps keep the borage flower inside the ice rather than the flower floating to the top and only encasing part of the flower.


If you’ve been waiting for the twist of betrayal in this article, your patience is about to pay off. Borage, for all its beauty and pollinating qualities, has its own share of shortcomings.

Throughout my borage experience I noticed an itchy rash appearing along my arms. After some research, both online and hands-on, I learned that the fine stiff hairs on the plant can penetrate your skin and cause some notable red irritations.

Once I found out that borage was the culprit, I let out a dramatic gasp as I removed the knife from my back. To think of all the love, care, and attention I put into this plant . . . and this is how it treats me?! Consequently, I had to cross off early morning borage hugs from my garden routine.

Another major borage betrayal lies in its edible qualities. Borage contains toxic alkaloids, which could lead to moderate or severe liver damage if consumed in large amounts for a prolonged period of time. While a few ice cubes shouldn’t be of any consequence, I implore you to enjoy borage in a safe amount, and please consult your doctor regarding any concerns with this herb.

So, as with most things, borage is not perfect. While we should all be mindful of its faults, its qualities are a game changer in the garden. This summer, borage was the most asked about plant in my vegetable gardens and has become the one I most love spreading knowledge on.

Can’t Get Enough Borage?

Facts & Tips

• Sometimes as borage flowers age, they will turn from their normal blue-indigo color to a bright, dazzling pink. This can make for a bewitching twilight-esque flower with both colors intermixing.

• Borage does not generally need to be pruned. However, if you are wanting to prolong its seasonal value, pruning your borage would be a good step. Simply prune down to a node that has the correct direction of where you want the new growth to spread. This can also help make your borage look bushier and promote more flower growth throughout the summer.

• In the Language of Flowers, the borage flower is said to represent filling your soul with optimism and enthusiasm. It also stands for bluntness, abruptness, and rudeness.


Orchid Buds

The end of August marked eight years that I have been with Reynolda Gardens. I ponder the feeling of how quickly the years have raced by within my relatively short time at the Gardens, and how much they have developed and grown (no pun intended) into the twenty-first century.

Our staff is a modest crew of six, and we are responsible for 134 acres of property. In theory, that would mean each of us would have more than twenty-two acres to manage if divvied up. As any gardener knows, there is always something to do in the garden . . . and twenty-two acres is a lot for anybody. Luckily, not all the acreage is under such intense, managed cultivation. But for the areas that are more managed, we have a cavalry of volunteers to back us up.

On my first day of employment, I was introduced to some of the volunteers. I could immediately tell these individuals were dedicated to sharing their time, knowledge, and downright hard work for the betterment of the Gardens. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several volunteers—working with them directly and indirectly—and getting to know them on many levels. Many had been volunteering before my start and are still regulars every week.

Two greenhouse volunteers that I have had the utmost pleasure getting to know and work with are Mike Essic and Dana Hall. I met each of them individually, in passing, as they wandered through the Greenhouse—each visiting to see which orchid would pique their interest.

As I spoke with them on their visits, they each expressed interest specifically in volunteering with the orchid collection. With several hundred orchids under my care, their offer was too much of an asset to pass up. Mike had recently retired from a career in sales and business and was able to start volunteering right off the bat. At the time, Dana was still working in specialized manufacturing but was counting down the days to retirement. Fortunately, he was able to find some time during the week to volunteer.

Mike and Dana each began a love affair with orchids somewhat later in their lives. Mike started with a few phalaenopsis and then began attending the Triad Orchid Society meetings. At around a hundred or so orchids later, you could say he “caught the orchid bug” hard.

Dana recalled the story of a former coworker who expressed an interest in keeping orchids, but only took on the hobby of growing orchids years later. Ironically, Dana sometimes runs into that old coworker at the Greenhouse and they like to catch up and talk about (what else, of course) orchids. Dana has caught the orchid bug so bad, in fact, that he converted and engineered an entire setup in a room of his home that is completely devoted to growing orchids. The seriousness of these two is genuine.


When it comes to their volunteer work, the two of them have been spearheading the major undertaking of repotting, dividing, relabeling, renaming (as always with orchids), and inventorying every individual orchid in the entire collection. Their skills have been applied time and time again in organizing and in the physical management of the orchid collection.

Many hours of hard work and sweat have been put in by Mike and Dana, and the revitalized condition of the orchid collection reflects the commitment and enthusiasm they have devoted over the years. I am humbled by their dedication to volunteering weekly and selflessly putting in the hours to make a difference. A massive thank you to Mike Essic and Dana Hall for your time, efforts, and your camaraderie.

And to ALL of our volunteers that help make things happen, we are forever grateful. There are many different volunteering possibilities at Reynolda and whatever your skill set may be, there could be an opportunity waiting to be discovered.

Opposite page: Orchid “buds” Dana Hall (L) and Mike Essic (R)

Making Waves


The Cambridge Dictionary defines freedom as, “the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc. whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited.”

Our Director, Jon, has told me before that I am not boring, and he is right. I like to mix things up a little bit to keep it exciting. I asked him about switching up the vegetable gardens, and he told me I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted.

At first, I didn’t really know what I was going to do. However, I had a vision of people being in the middle of the garden, so they could really see the plants and take in nature.

I have always thought that straight rows in a vegetable garden are boring, row after row of the same vegetable. I don’t see myself as a designer, but I pay attention to what our visitors like. I would often see families come through the gardens, curious to know what a plant was, but they couldn’t really get to it. So, I decided to take a plot, divide it up into four parts, and put a bench in the middle of it. Jon wasn’t too keen on the idea at first until he saw people sitting on the bench admiring the zinnias and fluttering butterflies. This bench was the beginning of the new designs in the vegetable garden, which led me to ask myself: Now what do I do?

At that time it was early spring, and the garden was empty, a clean slate. I knew I was planting kohlrabi, lettuce, kale, cabbage, onions, and carrots. I started out with one plot, raking a huge X in the middle of it. I knew that would be my beginning. Then I made little horizontal rows inside the X and was left wondering which plants would go where.


I choose a mixture of Goldrush and Buttercrunch lettuce to plant in the X. Both lettuces are a bright lime green, which I knew would make an impact with the other vegetables. For the small rows, I chose a mix of kohlrabi and cabbages. Kohlrabi is one of my favorite spring vegetables, with its beautiful purple bulb and its dark green foliage. It really stands out in a garden, and also goes well with the bright lime lettuce.

Next came the cabbage, because who doesn’t love a fresh-grown cabbage in the spring? Growing up on a cabbage farm, I am very particular about my cabbage. My favorite is Caraflex, which is a sweet, pointed cabbage with tender leaves, an excellent crunch, and exceptionally wonderful taste. Just talking about this cabbage makes me want one. It’s a must-grow!

Another cabbage I added was Ruby Perfection, a round variety with bright red-purple leaves that just speak to you as you walk by. I also added a Chinese cabbage called Rubicon. Rubicon is a deep green, upright cabbage with a sweet, tangy, delicious taste. It’s wonderful to use for wraps or kimchi.

So this plot was done, and I was very happy with the different textures and colors it produced. When these vegetables grew together, it really packed a punch. There were many different leaf textures and the bright lime green, purple, yellow, white, and red colors all blended well together.

In my next plot, I decided to plant in a diamond shape. Inside the diamond I sowed different mustard greens, turnips, and lettuces. On the outside, I made diagonal rows and planted more Chinese cabbage and watermelon radishes. These refreshing, crisp

radishes are round with a white exterior and a watermelon-rose center. I also planted Red Russian kale that has smooth green, purple-veined leaves. The lettuce I picked for this area is called Speckled. It has bright green leaves with burgundy speckles, a real showstopper with a sweet taste.

I always wanted to plant a bed with a swirl design, so I did! This ended up being one of my favorite designs, with swirls of zinnias, porter weed, marigolds, and onions.

It was nice watching people sit on that bench in the middle of the vegetable garden. They got to enjoy seeing all these vegetables grow, while watching the butterflies, bees, dragonflies, squirrels, rabbits, and the occasional box turtle enjoy the garden, too. The bench was such a hit that I added two more to a different plot so people could relax and take in nature as they explored the bean and gourd tunnels.

Doing different designs in the vegetable garden inspired me to be more creative in the cottage gardens, as well. One year, I took a square plot and planted the garden into circles. Although it sounds a little crazy, it was something new and different. And I actually fit more plants into that plot than if I had used straight rows.


So the next time you are planting your vegetable garden, make some waves. Go ahead and put those swirls in it with some zinnias and sunflowers. Put in a sitting area. If you don’t have a bench, use a stump or an old chair. Sometimes we must sit in our own garden to see the beauty.


The Soul of a Gardener:


One of the greatest challenges we face at Reynolda is the constant upkeep of the greater gardens. Daily jaunts around the estate are necessary to ensure that our pathways are clear and our trails are safe for visitors. Managing invasive plants is always an uphill battle, but it’s one we’re starting to win in many areas.

When I reflect on the progress we’ve made over the last year, it energizes me to no end. We’ve been able to maintain the understory in areas we’ve cleared; we’ve planted a menagerie of native plants along the Coliseum Drive boardwalk; and we’ve begun to plant natural areas that were once just mulched beds.

As any gardener knows, though, it’s practically impossible to plant successfully without the promise of water. If we don’t have a spigot and hose handy, we are at the mercy of the weather, which is despicably unpredictable. Until recently, any new plantings located outside of the Formal Gardens required us to hitch up a 100-gallon water tank and trolly it around the estate. However, a recent donation has drastically changed how we’re now watering our new plantings.

Friend and donor Nancy Neill Spencer has generously gifted Reynolda Gardens with the funds to install irrigation throughout much of the greater gardens, including the massive expanse around the meadow. Her gift is integral to the work we’re doing in the greater gardens, and has funded not just irrigation, but numerous plantings and trail improvements.

A seasoned and talented gardener herself, Nancy has an affinity for the outdoors and the natural world. She understands that having the right tools is necessary for a successful garden—and that above all, easy access to

water helps to make Reynolda a better place for our community.

“You can’t do anything without irrigation,” she said. “With a garden, you’ve got to give it all the tender love and care. You keep pruning, you keep doing things. It keeps you grounded.”

Nancy has been coming to Reynolda for years and has found the greater gardens to be a wonderful asset to the Winston-Salem community, a place where people can enjoy nature.

“I’ve always loved Reynolda Gardens and used to walk my dogs on the trails,” she said. “I think the trails are especially fun for children; they love running the trails. There are other people that are into the more formal things—and I love that, too—but I also love the natural areas and the different wildflowers.”

One sentiment that I’ve heard from multiple people is how Nancy has so generously shared her talents with


all those she encounters. Whether it’s her knowledge of plants or her honed floral arranging skills, she has always been quick to connect with those interested. Close friend Sissy Whittington grew up with Nancy’s children and describes her as an extension of her own family:

“I’ve known her for sixty-one years, we were neighbors,” Sissy said. “Our neighborhood was one big happy family.”

Sissy has fond memories of Nancy’s Club Park garden, which Nancy tended for decades before she moved to Arbor Acres in 2019. Sissy recalled a wedding dinner party that Nancy hosted for her, held in the Club Park garden during the spring splendor of April. The guests reveled in the setting, wondering why anyone would ever want to leave Nancy’s garden.

The Club Park garden certainly was a special place, one that was born from the devastation of the 1989 tornado that tore through the Buena Vista neighborhood. From that point forward, the garden became Nancy’s solace, a place where she could focus and be surrounded by nature.

“That helped me come back from where I was at that point, and it never stopped,” Nancy said.

While her garden at Arbor Acres is smaller, it still has a considerable amount of plant diversity and character. From shady spring ephemerals to the winter charm of hybrid witch hazel, the garden subtly captures four seasons of interest.


Sissy’s descriptions of Nancy resonated with me, giving me a glimpse into her selfless nature and her desire to help others realize the beauty in their surroundings. Whether it’s offering a plant cutting or cultivating a skill set, Nancy has always been quick to share.

“She has shared and shared and shared her gifts,” Sissy said. “That has been Nancy all along. It’s artistic, it’s beautiful, and it’s creative. And she’s done it in an understated way. There’s a saying by Robert Browning, ‘a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?’ And I think with this Reynolda project her reach has extended her grasp.”

Nancy Neill Spencer sees the beauty of Reynolda Gardens and has faith in the potential of what is yet to come. That mindset has allowed us to adapt her same perspective—that we can achieve things that we’ve yet to recognize.

Both Nancy and Sissy referenced the Garden of Eden in our conversations—as a place from which we started and a place to which we seek to return. Sissy referenced renowned landscape architect Tom Woltz, who said, “we all have the desire to return to the Garden of Eden.”

“I think a garden offers us that,” Sissy said. “And I think Nancy’s experiences with her dogs walking through Reynolda Gardens and on the trails is part of that, too . . . just being in touch with something that is natural.”

I do believe Reynolda is Eden to many who visit, serving as a calm and fascinating natural space to exist without care. We’re so fortunate to have supporters like Nancy who feel this way about the Gardens, as they’re the ones that open doors and reveal new paths. We are thankful for the generosity of our donors, which propels us forward with new opportunities and ideas.

Clockwise: Guest speakers Sahar Coston-Hardy and Thaïsa Way with Jon Roethling; Fundraiser co-chairs Pollyann Holthusen, Scottie Neill, and Stewart Butler; Reynolda Gardens staff members Michelle Hawks, Jon Roethling, Amy Dixon, Joey Martin, Hayden Shuping, and Forrest Allred; Luncheon at Old Town Club

Celebrating the Future of Reynolda Gardens

On November 2, Reynolda Gardens hosted guests at Old Town Club to hear from Thaïsa Way and Sahar Coston-Hardy, editor and photographer of the book, Garden as Art: Beatrix Farrand at Dumbarton Oaks. Co-chairs Stewart Butler, Scottie Neill, and Pollyann Holthusen planned an exceptional event that celebrated art and nature, and the future of Reynolda Gardens. The sold-out event honored Nancy Neill Spencer. All funds raised will support the Gardens’s efforts to improve electricity, drainage, and accessibility in the Formal Gardens.


JALA, Jeff Allen Landscape Architecture


Anne Babcock Jonathan and Kristie Blanco Wilba Parrish Brady Agnes Butler Mrs. David Bahnson Butler Chip Callaway Claire Christopher Luci and Dek Driscoll Beth Duckett and Mary Blake White Mary McCabe Dudley FEDLogic Anonymous Nella Purrington Fulton Thomas A. Gray Betty T. Griffith

Patty and Malcolm Brown

Megan Salzman Medica Scottie and David Neill Leigh and Gray Smith


Bank of America Private Bank

Laura W. Hearn Pollyann and Greg Holthusen Anonymous Mr. and Mrs. David G. Townsend

Judith Morrill Hanes Robbie and Dave Irvin Dyeann and Henry Jordan Curtis Leonard and Robert Leath Mr. and Mrs. John R. Mann Ed and Rebecca McKee Cathleen and Ray McKinney Kathryn and Hof Milam Christoph and Drewry Nostitz Merritt and Laney Orr Nancy T. Pleasants Mr. and Mrs. Andrew J. Schindler

Tom Skinner and Erika von Isenburg Gwynne and Dan Taylor Kay Triplett Sissy and Jeff Whittington Mr. and Mrs. Richard B. Wimmer


Phyllis Alexander Jim and Marianne Bennett

James T. and Louise R. Broyhill Foundation Gina and Mark Caudill Terrie and John Davis Flower Lore Garden Club, in honor of Nancy Neill Spencer Lloyd and Jay Ford Nancy and Pat Grantham Susan and Charles Hauser Mr. and Mrs. Christopher H. Oldham

Piedmont Carolina Nursery and Landscaping

Louise Pollard

Becky Symons, in honor of Nancy Neill Spencer Wynn Tanner Nancy and Harry Underwood Mary Lynn Wigodksy Steve and Julie Williams


Thank You

New Friends

Reynolda extends a warm welcome to our newest Friends of Reynolda Gardens! *


Patricia Barber

Betty Benardo

Debra Benfield

Robyn Bilfelt

Marla Blackwell

Amy Bondurant Bridges

Judy Brown

Barbara Bryant

Linda Cargo

Wills Combes

Martha Elmore

Margaret Folwell

Rebecca Garau

Ruth Ann Allen Harden

Sonja Holder

Marian Hopkins

Amy Hubbard

Cameron Jordan

Annette Ludolf

Erin McCulley

Andrea Morgan

Lynn Rhoades

Anna Rubino

Christopher Ruggiero

Marcia Russell

Lenore Shamey

Sue Stephens

Philip John Stewart, Jr.

Astra Strobel

Maribeth Tanen

Kris Walker

Betsey Willard

Marylee Williams

Margaret Wilson

Carol Ziel


Shea Kidd Brown

Hannah and Brandon Callaway

Martha Canipe April Carter

Alexa and Matthew Ciancia Alexandra and Jack Evans Marie and Jerry Freeze Rebecca Gensel and Michele Bogrette

Beverly and Brant Godfrey

Kathleen and Kim Gondring Ann and Gerald Hopkins Beverly Huffman and Jeffrey Whitsett John D. Lee and James M. Byers Ashley and Joseph Levi Maryann and Richard McCrary Pat and Myron Mitchell

Amy Taylor North and James Ford Emily and Kevin Shute Lucy and Daniel Strandlund

Nancy Lee Weaver

Jacqueline Weinreich and Kevan Chambers

Margaret and Lewis Weldon Sissy and Jeff Whittington Hu Womack and Patrick Rudd


Catherine and John Thomas


Sherry Buckalew

*as of September 1, 2022


Tribute Gift

Reynolda Gardens is grateful to the following donors for remembering their loved one with a tribute tree planted in their honor: In memory of Rebecca Jean Miller by daughter Erin Webster, son Edward Danko, and grandchildren Addison Webster and Stella Webster

If you are interested in learning more about tribute gifts to Reynolda Gardens, please contact or visit for more information.


Know someone who would love Cultivate? Gift them a Reynolda Gardens membership this holiday season, and they’ll receive the next two issues, along with other special perks for Friends of Reynolda Gardens.

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