Gardening for the soul

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

[Editor&8217;s note: The dart is a weekly feature where a staff member throws a dart at a map of Demopolis, and then goes out to find a story associated with that area.]

For the last 23 years, Bettie Evans has made an art form out of landscaping and working in her yard. Her home at 912 Arcola Road in Demopolis looks more like a masterpiece out of a landscape magazine than it does a typical neighborhood home.

Standing tall with bright sunny faces like old friends, some of her prized possessions are a row of sunflowers in the back yard. Evans said it takes 6-8 weeks for them to get as tall as they are. Something else that helps keep them robust and growing back each year are the sunflower seeds that drop from a nearby bird feeder.

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Her collection of plants includes azaleas, hydrangeas, roses, touch-me-nots and a wide variety of other flora native to the area. But for Evans, working in the garden is about more than just beautification.

When her husband, Eugene, took ill Evans decided to stay home to care for him. Gardening for her is a time for relaxation to recharge her from the stresses of caring for a loved one. But her husband has always been a big supporter of her hobby.

In fact, he used his skills as a bricklayer to construct several custom-made raised beds.

Today her pipe dream of a butterfly-shaped flowerbed is a reality, and it adorns the most prominent spot in her front yard. Her husband also constructed one in the shape of a clover. This time of year they are filled with bright summer blooms, but when the weather changes they will get re-treated, Evans said.

Even the trees have Evans&8217; special touch to them, as she planted them at the house when she first moved to Demopolis from Linden many years ago. What were once tiny saplings are now large and leafy trees. Evans said she has measured her life, and that of her family&8217;s, by those trees.

Her daughter, Elaine Wright, is a fourth grade teacher at nearby U.S. Jones Elementary. Evans said she has picked up gardening a little bit, but she had a long way to go. That&8217;s why she was all too glad to help landscape her daughter&8217;s new home.

When she isn&8217;t in the yard working, Evans is working on a process of trial and error to get the right kind of soil and water intake for her plants so they can stay fresh and vibrant all year round.

But the exercise and the pleasure of gardening are exactly what keep Evans herself vibrant.