In the Garden with Miriam Jabour|Halls Ferry landscape looks top notch with a little effort, a lot of inspiration

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 1, 2009

“I bought my house on Halls Ferry Road 15 years ago and there was no grass or flower beds. Cars were parked in the front yard,”  Ricky Nixon recalls.

It stayed that way for the first couple of years. Today, there are attractive flower beds and a lush carpet of St. Augustine grass in the front, back and side yards. It looks like a professional landscaper planned and executed the transformation.

However, Nixon is not a professional. Many in town know him as their Terminix man and, over the years, his job has taken him into many beautiful yards. What he saw in those gardens and on HGTV, Home and Garden Television, inspired him to read books, learn some fundamental landscaping concepts and try his hand at designing flower beds and garden rooms at his own residence.

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There are several flower beds in the front yard of his home, almost directly across from the Engineer Research and Development Center, the former Waterways Experiement Station. Each is outlined with metal garden edging and mulched with either red cypress, white marble chips, river-rock, pea gravel or regular gray gravel. Large and small boulders sit in several beds alongside brightly glazed ceramic pots. One holds an azalea, others hold variegated and miniature ivies, a huge Boston fern, creeping fig, clematis and marigolds. Some pots are partially buried and their plantings appear to spill out into the mulch. Low growing junipers and short mondo grass that is planted in gray gravel in such a manner as to create a patchwork pattern are quite effective in the beds that flank the sidewalk leading to the front door.

A stone pathway leads to a double gate and fenced backyard. Confederate and Carolina jasmines grow on the wrought iron supports for the carport with small yapon hollies and cleyera in the planter alongside the carport. Nixon and his father fashioned the double wooden gate doors with ornamental iron insets attached to the fence surrounding the backyard.

Much of the backyard is on level ground, but one side slopes off dramatically. This would have presented quite a challenge to even a professional landscaper. Nixon had a stone retaining wall and steps installed leading down to the lower level where a sidewalk invites visitors to an open area created at the base of an old cement stacked retaining wall. Nixon has another project in mind for the area and plans to take out the cement wall, replace it with stacked stone and build a stone patio in the open area. Three giant sago palms, clumps of variegated liriope and lots of pinestraw fill the bed along this sidewalk. Two unconnected garden rooms are visible as one enters the backyard. Wicker chairs, a table and several large ceramic pots create a small sitting area in front of a waist-high, wrought-iron fence covered in Confederate jasmine. A pea-gravel floor covered by a double layer of landscape cloth is outlined with larger rocks.

Beyond the small sitting area and toward the back of the property line is another garden room defined by a pea-gravel floor, a ceiling of mature trees and the fence along the back of the property. A water feature, a gazebo under which a dining table sits, another grouping of chairs and a garden shed cover every bit of level ground in this area. Creeping fig grows up the walls of the shed where Nixon houses his gardening equipment. A Mississippi State University flag and other décor proclaim Nixon’s support of the Bulldogs. This outdoor room is where he and his family and friends cook out and enjoy TV sporting events. On the slope and side of this outdoor room, Nixon has planted nandina, lorapetalum, cleyera and a colorful Japanese maple. A hedge of dwarf nandina called Fire Power grows along the fence.

I noticed another bed outlined with metal edging along the fence. Nixon is planning another flower bed here, complete with a trellis, some type of climbing vine and Knockout roses. When he gets an idea, he uses spray paint to outline the shape in the grass or soil then develops the bed or project that he has envisioned.

Nixon is a self-taught gardener. His full-time job leaves him limited time for maintenance, but his landscape is neat and attractive. He brought in some help to create the retaining wall and stone pathway, but has done most of the work himself. Permanent plantings of low-maintenance shrubs, ground covers and evergreen vines dominate his landscape with just a smattering of blooming annuals.

Nixon can be proud of his accomplishments, and I hope his story inspires others.

Miriam Jabour, a Master Gardener and master flower show judge, has been active with the Vicksburg Council of Garden Clubs for more than 20 years. Write to her at 1114 Windy Lake Drive, Vicksburg, MS 39183.