BY SHELBY NIEHAUS
A wavy-bordered rock garden rings the pristine ranch home at 302 North Eighth. Antique plows, farming equipment, and statuettes sprout from the sun-washed stone between short, carefully-trimmed shrubs and low Japanese Maples. Shady spots abound at the rear of the home, while the front corner, sporting an American flag in its own island garden, is bright for most of the day.
The garden in question, which belongs to Dawn and Scott Hopkins, was recently named the June 2020 Yard of the Month by the Altamont Garden Club, kicking off another summer of recognition and admiration for Altamont’s best home landscaping.
The Hopkins couple, guiding the Altamont News and a representative of the Altamont Garden Club through the yard, commented that the home had no garden or landscaping to speak of when they moved in 12 years ago. One year after they moved in, though, around 2009, they installed the first iteration of their garden, a tiered display made of treated lumber. After the lumber began to degrade, though, they replaced the original garden with the current rock-ringed installation during 2015.
Many of the plants in the garden were selected for location and hardiness, especially along the home’s south and west-facing gardens, which receive full sun without even the shade of a tree. A honeysuckle and a couple of phlox plants thrive in the intense sun of early June. Meanwhile, near the northwest corner and along the north wall, baskets of million bells and petunias hang from the garage, and stands of spearmint and lilies line the concrete pad of their driveway. At the north is a ground-cover garden–snowcaps, dragon’s blood, and more–as well as a wooden planter growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.
The Hopkins couple says they buy their plants from several sources, though Alwerdt’s Gardens is their main one, and their only source for hanging baskets (like many Altamont gardeners, Dawn points at the Alwerdt’s baskets’ size as a key draw, showing off photos of baskets that have grown larger than her grandchildrens’ armspans). Other plants have been sourced from Rural King, and the containers are selected opportunistically, some coming from gardening supply stores and others hailing from Dollar General.
Of course, the 12-year road from simple lawn to tasteful garden had a couple of bumps. Scott Hopkins points out a tiny shrub at the southeast corner of the garden, which was the victim of an overnight, covert trimming. “The cuts were clean,” he says, and the clippings were left behind. The culprit was never found, and thankfully, the shrub is recovering nicely.
Another fixture, this one along the rear of the house, also survived a late-night attack. A large concrete angel, seated on a stone bench, was once pushed off and onto the ground–luckily, the angel was uninjured, says Dawn. The statue had been a gift from her daughters some 20 years ago, and has followed the Hopkins pair from house to house over the decades.
Other sentimental displays dot the garden. Along the house’s side garden, a southern section facing West Monroe Avenue, is a small display of antique farm and homestead equipment. Some of this equipment was thrifted or gifted, though the centerpiece, a wooden wagon wheel, was originally owned by Scott Hopkins’ grandfather. On the opposite side of the house, the side facing north, are a pair of weather-worn tricycles, one of which belonged to a grandson. The other was gifted by a family friend, Dave Wolf, as was the antique sickle that lies on the ground between them.
Perhaps the most prominent sentimental display is the island garden at the southwest corner, a small oval peaked with a flagpole and an American flag. Dawn notes that this garden was installed after their eldest grandchild, Sabashtin Thompson, joined the Army National Guard last year. A vinyl-decorated plank (prepared by Desiree Reedy) sits beside the front door, also in Thompson’s honor.
For the rest of the month, the patriotic island garden sits just behind the Garden Club’s new Yard of the Month sign, a metal display produced by Logan Hill, industrial arts instructor at Altamont Community High School. This sign replaces an older, worn sign.
In the future, Dawn says, the couple plans to add in a fish pond along the west side, a fixture they used to have but have since removed. More plants are, of course, also in order.
For their June Yard of the Month, the Hopkins couple was presented with Chamber Bucks by the Garden Club.