Friends say that 70-year-old Barbara Dixon Johnson needs to slow down, but she still gets out in her beautiful two-acre yard on S.C. 905 in Conway every day to check out the progress of her flowers and fruit trees.
Retired from Horry Electric Cooperative, Johnson enjoys sharing the stories behind her green thumb beauties.
Rows of knockout roses line one side of her backyard, and one special circular bed near the back corner of her house is in memory of her beloved husband Donald.
After his death, a friend gave her some of the knockout rose bushes, and she put them in one area especially for him. While he was a disabled veteran who helped where he could in the yard, he did not quite share her passion for the pastime.
“Every year he would say ‘Are you gonna plant some more?’,” Johnson said with a smile. “It’s been my hobby since I was a little girl.”
Although this is not the time of year for her yard to be in full bloom, there is a rainbow of color that arrives in the springtime.
More roses live on the side of her house, and up front, red, white and blue hydrangeas lie in wait for the next colorful bloom.
One special hydrangea plant that is dear to her heart is one at the corner of her front porch, that was given to her by her late daughter-in-law, who gave it to her as a Mother’s Day gift years ago.
Johnson has lived in the area for 48 years, she said, and when she’s not working in her yard, she’s heavily involved in her church down the street, Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
Hidden behind her fence lies a garden of many types of peppers, and a long row of collard greens. In the very back stands a huge blueberry bush that Johnson said gave her at least five or six quarts of berries this year and keeps on giving.
“I put some in the freezer every year,” Johnson said.
A friend gave her that blueberry bush years ago from the woods of Georgetown and it continues to bear sweet berries.
Along her back porch and on the ramp that her late husband needed to get into the back of the house, various plants and flowers bloom in pots.
In a special area behind the house are a garden of miniature fruit trees that should bear fruit next year for the first time. A lemon tree, a persimmon tree, a peach tree and an apple tree stand among them.
Many potted plants line her back fence that she said she has had for years and occasionally must “de-snake.”
Back out on the side lot of her property, a pear tree sits mostly empty, less two pears on the ground, rotten.
“That pear tree was loaded down until Dorian came,” Johnson said, referring to the recent hurricane that made her miss out on a lot of her pear intake this year.
Grapevines, both red and white, line her side yard, and it all started with a handful of seeds tossed aside.
“Someone gave my mother some grapes, and this vine came up after she had thrown the seeds down…and now seven - eight years later…” Johnson said.
A small seedling near her large pomegranate tree is where she said she’s thinking she’ll try her hand at growing kiwis.
“I read that they do well in this climate, and I love kiwi,” Johnson said.
By the pomegranates grow both plums and figs. The figs are nearly ripe, and she has tied brightly-colored grocery bags to some of the limbs to keep the birds from eating all of the figs before she can pick them.
While she isn’t a member of any local garden clubs, when she retired from Horry Electric, some of the employees came down and toured her yard, took pictures and featured her yard in the company’s Living in South Carolina magazine.
Johnson said she really doesn’t have any special gardening tips – just find something you love, plant it and see what happens, she said.
A large part of her beloved yard (and some precious plants on the inside of her home as well), came as gifts from family, or small seeds/seedlings taken from elsewhere and given a chance to bloom.
Really, that’s all you need, she said.
Growing up, Johnson said if her parents took her somewhere to visit and they had a flower or plant she liked, she’d get a cutting from the plant and put it in a can to see if it would grow for her.
“My daddy used to tell me he wanted to build me a room for all of my flowers,” Johnson said. “He didn’t get the chance to, but my husband did it for me – built my sunroom for my plants. It’s been a love of mine forever.”