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Festival of Spring Gardens

By Katie Scarvey
Salisbury Post
Everyone should have someone like Sandra and Ed Shell living nearby.
The Shells’ friends and neighbors have a standing invitation to enjoy the couple’s two-acre garden whenever they want. Plenty of folks take them up on it too, some of them showing up every day to walk the beautifully landscaped paths and enjoy the tranquility of the environment. Strollers can take a break and relax in a newly added sitting area featuring three benches.
Now, the public can enjoy the Shells’ gardens ó and 15 others ó next weekend, April 12-13, during the Salisbury-Rowan Symphony Guild’s Festival of Spring Gardens.
Searching for a home site midway between their banking jobs in Winston-Salem and Charlotte, the Shells chose to build in Salisbury’s Countryside development 10 years ago. With the energetic assistance of trusty landscaper Roger Greene, they’ve transformed the grounds ó which used to feature mainly trees and poison ivy.
The Shells have taken out hundreds of the trees ó leaving plenty ó and done extensive planting: trees, shrubs and perennials.
Now, it’s a lovely oasis. It’s been a huge undertaking. They’ve planted 2,450 shrubs and trees, including dozens of varieties of azalea and rhododendron, as well as dogwood, ornamental peach, crabapple, and such unusual specimens as corkscrew willow. Crape myrtles line a pathway, creating a beautiful flowering archway in the summer.
Visitors may get the sense they are in a beautifully kept municipal park rather than onthe grounds of a home.
The upkeep is considerable. This year, 42 tons of pit gravel were spread to refresh the walkways, along with 1,700 bales of pine needle mulch in the beds.
A 24-station irrigation system keeps everything lush and green.
Sandra does much of the landscape design, in consultation with Greene. “I’ve always loved plants,” Sandra says. “It’s relaxing for me.”
What is not so relaxing is dealing with the deer that ravage their property, which is not fenced ó yet. Sometimes, they see 15 to 20 deer at a time. The deer particularly love the azaleas and the hostas.
They haven’t yet figured out an effective way to deal with the deer, although Ed says they swear at them a lot ó understandably, since the hoofed visitors have done many thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.
Fox and wild turkey are also frequent ó and more welcome ó visitors.
Another country garden
Not far from the Shells’ home, down a gravel driveway just past the Granite Quarry sign, is another beautiful garden on this year’s tour, owned by Elizabeth Calhoun.
Elizabeth moved to Salisbury in 1993 for her job at Celanese. She retired in 2005 but continues to consult in her area of environmental health and safety.
The house, which Elizabeth bought from Paul and Sue Fisher 15 years ago, dates from 1937. It’s surrounded by five acres with more than two of those fenced in. On these grounds, unlike the Shells’, the deer simply look longingly over the fence at the luscious plants instead of grazing on them.
Birds, however, have an open invitation. Elizabeth has given them a squirrel-proof feeding area.
“We’ve tried to turn this into a bird sanctuary,” she says. She’s even had nesting owls in one of her trees, and she sees plenty of hawks and woodpeckers.
“I think every sparrow, goldfinch, nuthatch and wren in Rowan County must end up here sometime,” she says.
The mature and flourishing boxwoods are an impressive part of the landscaping.
Elizabeth has added two water features, which help drown out some of the highway hum.
Elizabeth’s garden is also fully irrigated, like the Shells’. She started in one area and kept adding stations.
“And I’m so glad I did,” she says.
Like the Shells, Elizabeth has much work to do ó with her landscaper, Ron Niederman ó to get ready for this year’s tour, including planting annuals and sprucing everything up.
In addition to the two country gardens, the Milford Hills gardens of the following couples are part of this year’s tour:
On West Colonial Drive:
n Kim and Scott Robinson
n Lynn and Robert Anderson
n Janet and David McCoy
n Linda and Tom Overcash
n Liz and Chuck Friedrich
n Robin and Steve Fisher
On Wilshire Road:
n Betty and Bobby Lomax
n Jean and Ben McCubbins
n Janice and Ranjan Roy
On South Milford Drive:
n Pam and Hodge Coffield
n Kelly and Scott Austin
n Judy and Mark Beymer
On Statesville Boulevard:
n Angie and Wayne Dover
Tickets are $15 on tour days or $12 in advance and $8 each for groups of eight or more. The tour will run 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Saturday, April 12 and 1-5 p.m. Sunday, April 13.
Musicians will be performing at many of the sites. For a complete listing, see the TimeOut section of next Thursday’s Post.
Tickets are available in Salisbury at the Visitors Bureau, Innes Street Drug (downtown), A Step in Time, Caniche, Salisbury Emporium, Pleasant Papers and Escape the Daily Grind. They are also available at Crescent Pharmacy in Rockwell and China Grove Drug in China Grove.
For more information, call the Visitors Bureau at 704-638-3100.
Contact Katie Scarvey at 704-797-4270 or kscarvey@salisburypost.com.

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