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King of the Jungle Wilmington gardener Bruce Baldwin has a thing for tropical plants. A very big thing

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By Jamie Lynn Miller • Photographs by Mark Steelman

n Wilmington — night, day, in early morning dew or late afternoon sunshine — the jungle never sleeps. Just ask Bruce and Joyce Baldwin, childhood sweethearts whose 1980 Pine Valley home is completely surrounded by a tropical wonderland with jungle-scapes straight out of exotic travel brochures. “I’ve always liked jungles, so I just grew my own,” says Bruce Baldwin with a chuckle. And thanks to Wilmington’s subtropical climate, his backyard jungle grows and grows. Baldwin nurtures a myriad of palms and fruits — even gourds, which he carves into instruments and works of art. “I 62

Salt • August 2014

scrape the skin off, then start carving and etching,” he explains, handling one hand-painted example featuring red and yellow parrots flitting among tropical flowers. He’s fashioned another gourd into a Central American instrument known as a guiro, which he carved into the shape of a fish. Growing up next door to a working cattle and crop farm, it was years before Baldwin discovered his penchant for tropical fauna. He did, however, appreciate the local scene (and scenery): rolling hills, tomato fields, and joyrides on “borrowed” farm machinery. “Our neighbor was the real farmer,” says Baldwin of the man next door who rented the land. “He used to leave his tractors lying around. That’s how The Art & Soul of Wilmington

August Salt 2014  
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