One woman’s chore is another’s delight. Thoughts of daily weeding, cutting, planting, watering and trimming plants conjures dread for some, but it’s just the kind of thing gardener Delois Williams gets excited about. While her name may rarely raise an eyebrow, the landscape surrounding her home has caused many passersby to do a double take.
“Quite a few people seem to know the yard before they know me,” Williams said. “Some people have pulled into the driveway to ask the name of a plant or to take pictures.”
Her multiple garden arrangements — consisting of everything from loropetalums, dwarf nandinas, azaleas, hostas, barberrys, dogwoods and emerald green arborvitaes, to marigolds, impatiens, lantanas, peace lilies and of course, the ever-popular crape myrtles gracing her property — create a botanical feast for the senses.
One packet of flower seeds given to a little girl has blossomed into a passion that has lasted more than 50 years. Williams was about 5 years old when her grandmother gave her a packet of zinnia seeds.
Williams has been learning ever since. On the same property where she grew up planting vegetables with her eight siblings, she has continued to develop her skills. Her current project, started in 2003, is a visual labor of love.
With the exception of mowing the lawn — her husband Russell’s job — she does all her own designing, planting and maintenance.
Williams said she doesn’t notice how much time she spends in her yard each day, but admits it’s a lot. Rising early before work, she goes out to water her foliage while carefully inspecting for intruders.
“If you don’t keep an eye on things, the insects will lay eggs and take over,” she said.
After work she returns for another few hours to do any necessary trimming, weed removal or spraying. Weekends — when she puts in the most time — holidays and even vacations are coordinated with taking care of the yard.
“This is a passion for me, but I guess you could call it a lifestyle. They’re like my babies,” Williams said. “Being out here is just so peaceful.”
Holding a bunch of weeds in her hands, Williams stopped plucking momentarily.
“It gives me time to think and to meditate. I feel so close to God out here. And, I love looking at beautiful things … watching them grow and picking fresh bouquets. I enjoy the smell that comes from it. It’s wonderful,” she said.
“It’s nice to see her doing something that brings her so much joy. I think it’s a form of therapy for her,” said Russell Williams. “She is very good at it.”
Delois Williams said she can’t keep a decent hairstyle and has been bitten by fire ants and was once repeatedly stung by an aggressive swarm of bees. Still, she won’t be dissuaded.
“They bit me around my ankles 30 times. They came out of the ground and ran me all the way into my garage. So, now I just wear long pants,” she said.
In the midst of her antagonist, Delois Williams has something for which to be grateful.
“The weather has been great. It’s been a good year because I haven’t had to water as much,” she said. “The rainy weather has saved me work and has helped things grow better.”
While the average garden enthusiast may not execute, from idea to ideal, their own picture-perfect landscape, many gardens in the area are experiencing their own version of lusher greenery and plentiful blooms.
Lee Anderson from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension said a rise in the number of people interested in gardening has occurred in the last couple of years. He hopes efforts made through his office, by providing opportunities for hands-on training and education, has contributed.
“We have a big movement encouraging people to have some sort of horticulture in their yards,” Anderson said.
Whether the weather has been a factor, he said, depends on the type of plant.
“The weather has thrown a few loops this spring and summer, but heavy rains is not always a benefit,” he said.
Anderson, who deals with water quality issues, said with lots of rain, drainage is important, as is getting some education on horticulture.