I can’t count the times I’ve driven by her garden and practically run off the road trying to take as much of it in as is possible at 50 mph. On this beautiful morning, as I had an errand out that way, there was no schedule keeping me from dropping by to take a closer look at this gorgeous spectacle: Vicki Armes’ garden.
I felt a little nervous just popping in on the Armes family who were all very hard at work in the various garden plots surrounding the house. But apparently this is a common occurrence at the Armes’ house as strangers often drop by to inquire about Vicki’s masterful handiwork and she is more than happy to oblige her visitors. I was warmly greeted by Vicki, who happened to be taking a little break from her morning gardening as I drove up. I asked if I could schedule a convenient time to tour the garden and share the experience with an article and pictures. She suggested nine o’clock the next morning, when the air is crisp and the sun’s still low and bright, but not too hot….
It was a perfect 65 degrees that June morning and under a clear, sunny sky I excitedly made my way to Vicki’s house. When I arrived, I was greeted by Vicki and her daughter, Christy Randol, and invited to sit beneath a shade tree with a cool drink where we could get acquainted. With so much I wanted to know I thought the best place to start was the beginning….
Vicki watched her mother and aunts garden when she was a child. That’s where it all started. When she moved with her husband, Jerry, and their three children to this house in Harviell in 1978, she immediately started her dream garden little by little. Some of her first plantings were transplanted hydrangeas that belonged to her mother and Jerry’s mother and grandmother, along with peonies. Those prized heirloom hydrangeas create a lush backdrop of soft lavenders and blues along the front of the red brick ranch-style house to this day.
In 1994, Vicki’s mother came to live in a little house next to the main house where Vicki could help care for her. To make her feel at home, Vicki and her sisters planted a garden right outside her doorstep which included transplants of her own daylilies and roses and a huge selection of other gorgeous flowers, shrubs and grasses. What a gift of love and grace it was and she was able to thoroughly enjoy it for one year before she passed away. Jerry’s mother also came to live in the house when she needed a little help so the personal welcoming touch continued with transplants of her own favorites of sedum, Missouri primrose and irises.
In late 1995 Vicki’s vision for the front yard garden started to bloom. Now, most of us might envision a manageable garden plot of, say, 15’X15’, – something we can fathom maintaining without finding ourselves keeling over and being buried in the garden. Not Vicki! Her starting plot? 80’X80’! I looked over at Christy who was wincing, reminiscing about the back-breaking task of hauling chat in 5 gallon buckets to form the walking paths and working with other family members loading in dirt and rocks to build the garden beds. Then one favorite flower planted after the next and this Garden of Eden-like paradise became the vast, serene retreat I found myself strolling through on this lazy summer morning.
Vicki’s favorite flower is the daylily.
Her collection started with her mother’s transplants and has grown to around 250 different varieties that she’s traveled throughout Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky to collect. On this fine morning the daylilies were in full bloom and their delicate petals in every color of the spectrum were a spectacular sight to behold!
One meandering path led to another past innumerable blooms and blossoms, grasses, shrubs and trees. Then, to my delight and surprise, I happened upon a leafy plant familiar to my own garden; a crop of okra springing up nicely among the flowery foliage! It was planted by special request for the man of the house, I was told. “Of course!” I thought. I mean, after all, a man can’t be expected to eat flower petals! Vicki has a gift for everyone in her garden.
Everywhere my gaze landed was a cozy vignette that beckoned my attention. I wanted to experience all of them! Nestled everywhere, it seemed, but perfectly staged, were rusty wagon wheels and other curious antique structures, garden gnomes, bird houses, shiny gazing balls, and quaint benches for relaxing while taking in the beauty all around.
My favorite sitting spot was a bench enshrouded by an arbor that Vicki and Jerry made themselves. The arbor was heavy-laden with tangled wisteria that just weeks earlier was dripping in lavender blooms. This is just one of so many personal touches gracing Vicki’s magical garden, which, she informed me, has swelled to 88’X88’!
I was dying to know how in the world Vicki kept all her plates spinning in the air, so to speak. I confessed how disorganized I seem to be keeping up with my mom duties, my boys’ ball schedules, my home and garden responsibilities. I get so focused and carried away in my own vegetable garden and landscaping projects (which are the size of … like NOTHING, comparatively) that I’ve often looked up after feeling a tap on my sweaty shoulder to see a cute boy of mine asking if I might be planning on fixing lunch or dinner any time soon! They’re gracious and very self-reliant, thankfully, as they usually just smile and say, “Nah, that’s OK, mom, I’ll make something myself.”This is where I find out that Vicki maintained THIS GINORMOUS GARDEN all while raising her own kids, fostering kids and running a daycare for 19 years for up to 16 kids!!! Ummmm….needless to say, I came away with a much needed attitude adjustment that felt like whiplash! I’d say it’s about time to crank up the crockpot and fix those recipes just sitting there looking delicious on my Pinterest “Food” board. Ya think?!
Vicki and Christy were such gracious hostesses on this marvelous summer morning. I really hated to leave but that schedule was pulling me back to the stuff that I love doing with my family. It sure was nice to go off the beaten path for a bit though.
I told Vicki how much I admired what she has created here and how much she inspired me. I couldn’t help but think that just like her sweet mother and other family members must have felt opening up their front door and stepping out into the garden paradise created by Vicki’s own hand, I, too, had just experienced the beauty and grandeur of this special place. I was so glad I finally popped over. I drove away feeling very humbled by the gift of my morning visit in Vicki Armes’ garden.