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Sandy Raymond, Master Gardener
Photographs Anne K Moore

When I was a little girl, both my grandmothers had flower gardens, each very different, as were my grandmothers. They came from a generation when women didn’t wear pants. I can still see them out hoeing in their dresses. Can you imagine gardening in a dress and stockings? Granted, it was in the north where summers are mild.

My one grandmother always wore a bonnet that looked like Holly Hobby’s and an apron with pockets for her tools. She had the most beautiful stand of peonies that intoxicated you with their smell. There were all the old time favorite flowers that added to the air - phlox, sweet Williams, lilies and petunias to name a few.

Sandy’s Grandmother
My other grandmother had an antique gazing ball centered in her garden. To her, I also owe the love of antiques and collecting. She would pick the flowers from the garden and place them in a wonderful old McCoy Pottery vase, one of many in her collections.

Their gardens were cottage gardens. Nothing formal about them. They spilled over with flowers from thoughtfully laid out beds. How could you not love it! My parents, on the other hand, had vegetable gardens. Big vegetable gardens! I guess it was out of necessity having seven kids. The trouble was, we had to weed them and weed them and weed them!


I came to hate weeding. You would think that I would never want to pull a weed in my own garden, but I’m the total opposite. I’m a stickler for keeping them out. I figure that if you nip it in the bud and don’t let them get a start you are more in control. Of course, lots of mulch and ground covers help. 

I have an endless amount of mulch and compost, thanks to my husband, Jim. He is always grinding debris and has several piles of compost, one always ready for me. He is not a passionate gardener in the same way I am, but he has a wonderful appreciation for the garden. 

He’s been my greatest love and support in everything that I’ve done. He has done all the dirty work and all the brickwork. If I prune and throw everything on the ground, he picks it up behind me. When we didn’t have much money and I spent it on flowers, he would tell me what’s important is that I’m happy. (Yes, I have been asked to have him cloned).

I tend to get thoroughly engrossed with my garden. I tune out the world and forget the time. Unfortunately, that can be a bad thing. Like the time I was happily planting away and totally forgot my child, who was practicing at the ball field (to this day, she won’t let me forget). However, my garden and I may have redeemed ourselves when we made all the beautiful floral arrangements for her wedding day. I love to do things like that; be creative with the garden.

Many English style garden troughs I’ve made are situated throughout the garden. One contains a miniature Cotswold cottage, complete with a cobblestone path and a wrought iron gate with stone pillars. It is a fairy garden for our granddaughter, Emma. I’ve enjoyed making birdhouses, cast leaves, shell art, and mosaics for the garden. Along with the plants I propagate, my creations are also shared with my family and friends, the same friends who have helped me make my garden so beautiful. There are daylilies from Laura, gingers from Sharon, hosta from Jane, and the list could grow and grow, as does my garden.

I always wanted to give the garden a name, but thought it may be a bit pretentious. One day as I was snipping the creeping fig off the thistle tile on the brick wall, it came to me – Thistlewood. I had placed the antique tile on the wall almost as a welcome sign. Remember that collecting gene from my grandmother? We collect Scottish items and thistles are one of those. It’s something we love, something we are close to, just like the garden. Why shouldn’t it have a name? So it is, “Thistlewood,” where everyone is welcome.

About the Author: Sandy Raymond is originally from Ohio. She is a South Carolina Master Gardener and passionate grower. She holds hands-on classes in her garden, teaching others how to make troughs and other garden treasures. Garden fairies are welcomed throughout her garden.

Posted November 14, 2014

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