CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Several years ago, after delivering my daughter to a play date, I passed a lovely circular garden in front of a charming shingled house nestled in South Hills.
I confess -- I drove through the semi-circular driveway. I had to see the garden from all sides.
It was with great pleasure to discover recently that the home and garden belong to Ed and Connie Hillenbrand, thanks to a conversation with Connie's mom, Marianne Lane. The circular garden bed is in full sun, and it is lushly packed with tall, flowering shrubs, wildflowers and perennials of all colors and shapes. There's nothing too terribly exotic, yet it is striking in its fullness.
There are Callicarpa (Beautyberry), many different lilies, wild carrot (Queen Anne's lace), crocosmia, (a species in the iris family) and more. Next to this garden, there's a shady spot filled with more blooms and greenery. Around the back, another oasis awaits. On a recent visit, I learned about the transformation from not-so-pretty lawn to Eden-like splendor.
"It was grass here," Connie said, pointing to the front yard, "but it never grew very well. We added this driveway, with the circular bed, first. Then, I just started digging up the grass under this tree," and another bed evolved, she continued.
The Hillenbrands moved into the house nearly 25 years ago, raising a daughter, Kaite. A major remnant from Kaite's childhood holds forth in the beautiful backyard garden area. It's a playhouse, complete with a tongue-in-groove ceiling and hand-turned spindles on the loft railing, made by her father. Ed owns Edward Hillenbrand Furnituremaker Inc.
The miniature cottage has stood the test of time, as Kaite's now all grown up, teaching English composition and creative writing at Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania and publishing a monthly, online publication called "Connotation Press" (connotationpress.com).
Another addition, lovingly created by Ed and annually planted by Connie, is a privacy fence running along the side of the home. The bottom half is a typical lattice design, but the unique feature is a series of planter boxes built along the top of the fence.