Just call me “Fern”

By: qwerty53

Sep 18 2010

Category: Uncategorized

1 Comment

Focal Length:22mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D300S

Butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and family and friends all enjoy the naturalized beauty of this Chandalar oasis.

The front yard of Johnnie and Edith Johnston’s home at the end of Chandalar Circle cul-de-sac is pleasing and inviting with collected statuary nestled throughout. Their passion-plant and hummingbird vine-covered mailbox gives a good hint that a dedicated gardener lives here, but it is what’s around back that really wows!

Edith Johnston, a ceramicist-turned-painter, has used her artistic eye to design the extensive plantings and multiple water features that wend their way toward Bishop Creek at the back border of their property.

Edith now retired for a third time, formerly owned Touch of Style Wicker for eleven years and previously worked in wholesale imports and as a property manager. Johnnie owns Sewage Equipment Sales & Service, is an environmentalist and supporter of Alabama Clean Water Partnership.

“My three sons nicknamed me Fern,” Edith says. It’s easy to see why when you take in the array and variety of ferns throughout the yard. There are conversation-piece ferns about—potted rabbit’s foot ferns, maidenhair ferns lining the walk, and a very large staghorn fern is suspended on bark. Ferns and more ferns bob gently underplanted in the tree shade presided over by a lush macho fern (Nephrolepis biserrata).

Tumbling down the hillside is a waterfall edged by stacked stones flowing down to a shady and greenery-filled pond filled with butterfly koi and Shubunkin goldfish and surrounded by a stone patio.

“You get to know your fish,” Edith says, as the fish swim toward her voice. “No two are alike. I have a new batch of baby goldfish—they are just an eyeball and a tail right now.”

Edith points out a common koi, but says, “She’s not really common though—she has her lips painted orange.” The Johnston fish are fed a grain that enhances their color and their pond has an electric fence “to prevent raccoons from dining out.”

The ponds are embellished with a variety of aquatic plants—water grasses, pitcher plants, the bamboo-like snake plant and lavender-blooming pickeral that attracts dragonflies. Around the perimeter, white caladiums add a pop and impatiens, which come back in random places each year, insert bright color against the greens.

Edith recommends the grand Sun & Substance hosta for an eye-blinking spread of golden chartreuse, adding, “And I highly recommend coleus; they provide a great flash of color even in shade.”

Favorite plants include a plant called hidden ginger that Edith inherited from a special aunt. It produces a lavish purple orchid-like bloom on a leafless stem in May. She also has a specimen-sized peace lily named after a dearly departed friend, Jo Bridgewater.

The Johnston’s have converted a former basketball court to a patio and maintain their lawn all the way to the creek where have carved out a fishing place for their four granddaughters. “Mayor Murphy kept his word to me about cleaning out Bishop Creek. It flows throughout the neighborhood, eventually emptying into the Cahaba River, but it was polluted with the cast-off debris of uncaring people.”

The Johnston’s use no insecticides, environmentally minded as they are. Even the chipmunks receive patient tolerance; Edith places a pinecone in their tunnel to thwart their relentless tunneling.


One comment on “Just call me “Fern””

  1. This is a wonderful article, Laura. It is a very contemplative place.
    Edith and I are going to make pepper-jelly in early October . Want to join us?

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