Written By: Heather Lee Gordy | Photographs Courtesy of: Cape Fear Garden Club

Every year the Cape Fear Garden Club pulls together the community for the Azalea Garden Tour. This year marks the 64th Annual Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour, featuring twelve gardens (ten private gardens and two public gardens). The private gardens are all new to the tour offering a variety of perspectives from different gardeners. Enjoy a sneak peak at three homeowners gardens featured in this year’s tour. Make sure to come out to the Azalea Garden Tour and celebrate the colors of spring with the Cape Fear community.

Jim and Betsy Knowles, owners of theArtWorks™, moved to their home in Wilmington in 1993 and quickly became a part of the community. When Jim and Betsy moved to Wilmington, Betsy took a gardening class to understand the local gardening environment and learn the ecosystem of this part of the state.

Jim started gardening as a child, working with his mother. She loved gardening and could make any yard a beautiful sanctuary. Jim has always viewed yards as “Nature’s Gallery” that provides something special for other forms of art.

The biggest challenge for Jim, is to not over plant the yard. Jim is more into hardscapes and says he has an “eclectic approach from a design point.” Jim believes gardening is something everyone can participate in, where we can support the environment in making our world more pleasant.

“I like an abstract of many different varieties splashed with a vast array of color,” said Jim. “From our huge live oak trees, to a prehistoric gingko we planted, and the multitude of azalea varieties.

Captain Terry Bragg went straight into the Navy after graduating from Appalachian State University with a bachelor degree in biology. His appreciation for plants and gardening developed young, and often he helped maintain the family gardens. He’s always been drawn to horticulture, and was accepted into a master’s program in plant pathology at Clemson University before deciding to join the Navy.

No matter where he was stationed, Bragg found a way to stay in touch with gardening and made sure to plant regardless of climate or space. Bragg had to accommodate to different climates and learn how to maintain a garden under various conditions. While he was stationed in Charlotte, NC he had a big garden, but while stationed in Savannah, GA he wasn’t as lucky. Living on the second floor of a condo, Bragg had to be more creative and grew cucumbers and zucchini out of giant pots off the deck.

After serving in the Navy for thirty years, Captain Terry Bragg retired and came aboard the USS North Carolina Battleship gaining the position of executive director. Bragg purchased his home in Wilmington mainly for the big garden space with potential to explore and expand the garden. For Bragg, gardening is part creative and part technical. It’s a way to wind down, connect with the community, express his creativity, and it offers aesthetic beauty.

“It’s the overall garden. I look at the shape and colors, and how it’s sort of an art piece the fact that they all fit together.”

Richard Johnson will be hosting this year’s ribbon cutting for the Azalea Garden Tour. Him, his wife, and four daughters moved to Wilmington in 2005, and have been serving the community since. They built and moved into their current home in 2011. Originally his wife was thinking of bringing in a landscaper, but Johnson felt confident taking on the job himself.

Johnson is a natural entrepreneur and a project-based individual, so when it comes to gardening he feels a sense of purpose. Having to work with the land and mother nature, he said gives him a reason to have to do it that day.

“It’s important for people to be connecting with dirt and the environment,” said Johnson. “Putting your hands in the dirt—it’s the circle of life.”

Growing up, Johnson was responsible for maintaining the care of their family property. Often he worked in the garden with his mother, and in college, he started a successful landscaping business.

Johnson appreciates the idea that you can live off your own land.

“I like everything outside,” said Johnson. “I view myself as an outdoorsman.”

The Cape Fear Garden Club Azalea Garden Tour opens Friday, April 7th at 10 a.m. with the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at 7601 Masonboro Sound Road. A reception and fellowship will follow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *