As a lover of plants and flowers, I am captivated by the garden and consider the swimming pool a nice touch. Youngsters are captivated by the swimming pool. They may or may not ever notice the garden (except on occasion when a buzzing bee gives them a reason to jump into the pool.)

It all began in 1977 when Kenny and Norma Wilson, with a "Yes!" vote from their four children, chose to build an in-ground swimming pool on the family homestead. The youngest was three years old at the time.

The 20 x 40-foot pool has a concrete walk as its perimeter, bordered by a narrow strip of grass on all sides. Norma's garden meets the grass. This inviting combination of lovely home, nice family, and swimming pool with a garden has been a refreshing place to visit for thirty-six years now. The pool has served Kenny and Norma's children, their thirteen grandchildren, and now their great-grandchildren (as Norma affectionately refers to those youngsters that are close to her family).

This week, I paid a visit to Norma to tell her that I would like to write a little article about her garden. So we chatted, and then I took pictures of the plants that surround the pool.


The pool was quiet on this day as we shared memories of children happily splashing in it over the years. Besides family, the pool welcomes friends, parties, celebrations, and baptisms.

All the while these poolside events are taking place, there is a graceful lady watching over her garden in that skillful, invisible way that graceful ladies do. One look at the garden, and it is obvious that an industrious hand and a creative mind are at work.

Perennials are the mainstay of Norma's garden, with annuals added in. Shrubs and vines are focal points of interest, and garden decor complements the plantings in a subtle way. All of it says, "Welcome." Although it would take volumes to tell the whole story, here are some of the highlights that caught my attention.


The deep end of the swimming pool is the side where many butterflies flit and flutter on the pendulous, thin spikes of Norma's butterfly bush. It is flanked by crepe myrtles, lovely in their own right. The butterflies fluttering on that bush were many, and they were very active. I finally pulled myself away so that I could photograph the other plants and flowers. (I will return to try and see if I can get three or four swallowtails in one frame.)

Norma then pointed out her "Chaste Bushes", and I thought it fitting to have a bush so aptly named at the home of a devout Christian family. As any true gardener would, Norma bemoaned the fact that her lilies were finished blooming but had looked very nice in the center of those two bushes. I completely understood.

The tall chaste bush (tree) looks a little like a butterfly bush, but its flower spikes are upright. In a gentle breeze, it sways and invites butterflies as well, adding charm yet majesty to the poolside.


Around the corner from the chaste bushes is the vegetable section that includes cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions and fits right in with the overall flower scheme. (Since you're gardening, why not literally enjoy the fruits of all your hard work?) Norma gave me a few cucumbers from her abundance that day. The cucumbers tasted great; I ate them out-of-hand, like an apple. They were sweet and filled with the goodness of summer.

(I made a mental note of the wire support used for the cucumber vines in case I want to try making one someday. But as the only one in my family who likes cucumbers, it might be best to just visit Norma each summer at cucumber time.)

Although the regal chaste bushes, the lovely crepe myrtles, and the magical butterfly bush command attention, what pulls everything together is the flower design. It is a feast for the eyes! The varieties are delightful and numerous. The four o' clocks are my favorite. Or is it the zinnias? Or the coreopsis ... It is difficult to decide. Meanwhile, the tall phlox makes a bold statement, agastache lends vertical lines, and a demure rose bush commands attention near the deck. Here are some snapshots that give us a glimpse into the enchanting world of the garden:

Yellow coreopsis with dainty, needle-like leaves Four o' clocks grow bush-like at the entrance to the porchImageImageImageA strong, circular wire cage with an equally strong cucumber vine growing upward

Swimming pool with mature crepe myrtles and butterfly bushMedium-pink, upright phlox in bloom

Deep pink phlox blooming next to AgastacheCompact rudbeckias with yellow eyes surrounded by tall, fuchsia-colored zinnias

Watering the garden is a daily task in the hot summer months. Norma's sprinkler does a fine job and only has to be moved from section to section at intervals.

In between garden chores, the pool is handy for taking a dip as often as you want to. Norma went in and out of the pool between watering her garden and accommodating me. That day was hot and humid with a heat index warning, so we made sure to drink water and to sit in the porch for a bit. (Photographing a garden in bare feet in 98º Fahrenheit on pavement was interesting—ok, it was hot!) I was in bare feet because Norma's garden pool is that kind of place—to just kick your shoes off and relax. I should have brought my swimsuit. And from now on, I will keep my flipflops on at midday in 90+ degrees.

I surely have learned some things about perennial gardening and landscaping just through Norma's example. She really doesn't have to say much but is well-versed in gardener's talk, like when she uses the word, "deadheading". Whenever she says that word, my face lights up because it means that I get to take some seeds home. Norma freely gives seeds to anyone interested in trying some of her flowers. That will be next season's project for me.

Postscript: Just off the back porch, in a hanging petunia basket, a tiny bird had built a nest—right in the middle of the hanging flowers! Norma would watch the nest from inside the porch. The morning after snapping these pictures, she informed me that the eggs had hatched.
Having been invited, I am looking forward to taking care of the garden for Norma for a few days this summer. I can't wait! It will be an honor.

Odds and Ends:

While the humidity of the poolside promotes the health of the plantings, pool water is not used to water the garden.

Ideas for poolside landscaping and perennial gardening:

Splish, Splash: Tips for Planting Around the Pool by Tamara Galbraith, 2009

Plants for Poolside Landscapes by Lucy Bradley, 1998

Perennials Demystified by Sally G. Miller, 2011

Off With Their Heads...Deadheads, That Is by Gwen Bruno, July 2012

Photos by Timmy Jo Given

Photo of four o' clocks by Norma Wilson