These are working gardens in the truest sense. “We don’t golf and we don’t go to the gym,” Maggie said. “This is our way to exercise.” The vegetables harvested from Randy’s three gardens provide food for the table: tomatoes, carrots, both white and sweet potatoes, beets, peppers, onions, okra, summer squash, kale, watermelons, cantaloupes, onions, cucumbers, and butternut squash
“Just a little bit of everything, “ Randy said.
Visiting the gardens on a hot July day, we did not doubt his word for a minute. In one corner of one garden was a strange-looking plant we could not identify.
“Ornamental millet,” Randy explained. It had been planted to be used in floral arrangements that Maggie was planning for an autumn wedding.
“She has some interesting ideas,” he added.
Indeed she has, and we will come to that shortly. In the meantime, we observed the care Randy has taken to protect his gardens from bothersome deer and rabbits — high fencing for the deer, low for the rabbits, which somehow seem to crawl under. The couple lives on six and one half acres, which include two ponds. Word gets around among the animal folk that this is a good place to forage for food and water.
Randy comes by his gardening expertise naturally. He grew up on a farm in Union County, where his parents and his brothers lived and worked. The brothers, who were older, helped their dad with heavy farm work, while he and his mother tended the gardens.
“She taught me how to can and prepare things,” he said.
The property is shaded by old trees that were probably growing when the first owners settled there in the early 1900s. This was the Wiseman family, who built a small summer house on the land. Succeeding families, Weeks and Lady Sarah McKinney Smith, Henry and Lucy Weil and finally, the Igerts, added on more rooms as needed.
“Everybody contributed to this funny old house,” Maggie said.
She was intrigued by the charm of the historic house and soon took advantage of the land on which it sat, which begged for development into charming garden areas. Like Randy, she grew up in an atmosphere that promoted a love of gardening. Her mother was a floral arranger, and this interest was passed on to her. She and designer Ron Lucas often work together to provide spectacular arrangements for special occasion arrangements, such as weddings. Some flowers come from her garden, of course, while some are ordered from wholesale florists.
One flower we had hoped to see was missing from Maggie’s garden. “I planted 25 sunflowers,” she said, “and the deer ate them all.” This summer, she has provided arrangements for two weddings, which means the flowers needed special attention. Hydrangeas were the primary flowers for one wedding and to keep them fresh until needed, she watered them four times a day.
Maggie sees a trend for summer weddings in outdoor surroundings, with informal garden flowers used in arrangements.