CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Frank and Genene Gourley welcome visitors to their Oriental-influenced garden as they have for the past four years as participants in the East End Garden Showcase.
The urban gardens of nearly 30 residences on Charleston's East End will be considered open for self-guided tours June 15-30. Signs and maps in the front yards designate which houses are gardens are on the tour.
When the Gourleys spot visitors in their gardens, they like to wander outside to chat or answer questions. "It's a great way to meet people," Frank said. "We've had people come through from Parkersburg and Beckley."
Each garden shows unique influences. The Gourleys' appreciation of Oriental design principles is evident in the wooden sculptures and fences that Frank, a retired engineer, designed and built, and the curved beds filled with the carefully placed plants and sculptures as envisioned by Genene's artist's eye.
She's a retired school principal who paints watercolors in the top floor of a studio the couple constructed on the back of their city lot. The first floor holds an impressive amount of woodworking equipment he uses to build furniture and artistic pieces of his own design. He also paints in watercolors.
When they moved into the house 13 years ago, the backyard contained overgrown shrubs and trees contained with a chain-link fence. He designed and built a tall wooden fence with open slats across the top half so neighbors wouldn't consider the fence an unfriendly gesture.
The Gourleys have enjoyed the welcoming nature of most East End residents and think that neighborliness is one of the area's greatest assets.
A distinctive Asian-inspired wooden sculpture bordering part of the front yard, also designed and built by Frank, hints at the gardens beyond. The Gourleys incorporated feng shui principles in their garden designs.
They used rock to represent water and mountains on a corner of their front yard. They call a jagged-edged, upright rock formation "Craggy Mountains" and an alligator-shaped design of smooth rocks "Alligator Creek."