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Sally’s Garden In a neighborhood where people come and go, the beautiful garden of Sally Jernigan is a small wonder By Gwenyfar Rohler Photographs by Mark Steelman

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get. — H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author of Life’s Little Instruction Book

It is doubtful that Sally Jernigan and Mr. Brown ever met. But one look at the blooming flower boxes on the front of her house reveals that this ardent gardener is living proof of the veracity of Brown’s observation. “They have screen in the bottom so they don’t get so heavy,” Jernigan explains. “You can change the pots out all year and keep them looking nice.” Since 1984, Jernigan and her husband, Robert, have nurtured their little cottage on Klein Road. They are sort of an anomaly in a neighborhood that has seen a lot of turnover. “People always leave,” Jernigan observes, shaking her head. “They say the houses are so small and so old, but they come back to walk their dogs!” The World War II-era houses off 23rd Street are indeed small — built to be temporary housing during the boom of wartime — but they are cozy on lots so close you feel like you could shake hands through your side windows. Such near proximity encourages people to get out and meet the neighbors. Maybe that’s why they come back to walk their dogs. Many see this neighborhood as made of “starter homes.” Not so the 64

Salt • Januar y 2014

Jernigans — they have bloomed where they were planted. Entering the yard from the driveway is like walking into a sale at the farmers market: Potted plants cover every surface, every level and even hang from poles. “Do you go to auctions?” Jernigan asks. “I love the auctions.” Which explains why she has a cafeteria silverware dispenser that has been upcycled into a six-piece planter, sewing machine bases for various plants, even old boots and clogs bursting with blooms. These found treasures create a folk art vibe within the garden. “I have about fifty potted ivies . . .” says Jernigan. “Tons of bromeliads . . . Momma had ivies, that’s part of why I love them, I guess.” She flashes an endearing smile, and recounts losing both her parents during the same semester when she was in college. It’s a heart-rending story in spite of the kind, calm, matter-of-fact voice that tells it. But Momma’s plants still needed to be cared for; it was a connection they could still share. Jernigan leads us into the backyard, which is not so much a backyard as a botanical patchwork quilt of her family’s memories. At the centerpiece is a solid rectangular greenhouse which, Jernigan proudly shares, has withstood every hurricane since it was assembled in 1993. Before that she had a geodesic dome variety that had to be covered with plastic every winter. “I was very, very pregnant with Molly,” she remembers. Wrapping the dome in plastic during her last trimester was not going to work. “They are nice to go into in the wintertime,” she says, running her hand appreciatively on the door frame. Surrounding the greenhouse are raised beds in a medieval-medicine-

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

January 2014 Salt  

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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