If good fences make good neighbors, then maybe a well-groomed garden is like heaven on Earth.

Royal Oaks resident Ron Brown could agree with that, as the Maryville man has created a personal space that transforms what was a small yard of grass into a place where others take notice. One of his neighbors asked The Daily Times to have a look. “Exotic” is how Allen Hochstein described it.

The front yard is home to canna lilies, three crepe myrtles, two Japanese maples, liatris, Impatiens, tropical hibiscus, Lenten roses, Knock Out roses, black-eyed Susans and a long list of other color-generating plants.

“These canna lilies will get 7 or 8 feet tall,” said Brown, pointing to his that are only 2 years old. He’s a patient gardener.

“I don’t plant things for immediate effect,” he said. “I plant it, give it the space it needs and in a couple of years it will fill in.”

He said he can find anything he needs at local gardening centers, including seeds or starter plants. He got into gardening while working as a bookkeeper for a gardening store. “I was fascinated,” he said.

In addition to the other mentioned plants enjoying the sun-filled front yard, Brown also has planted camelias, purple princess and perhaps his most interesting addition, the black dahlia.

They and the others are not random choices; Brown said he wants color in his garden 12 months of the year.

“I just wanted to have something besides a yard with grass,” he said. “I want something blooming all year round. I have camellias that will bloom in January or February. These Lenten roses will bloom in November or December. The purple princess used to be an annual but now survives the winter. It fills out around the tree.”

One of his Japanese maples is green in the summer and then turns orange for the fall season. When the leaves fall off in winter, yellow branches are revealed, this gardener said.

An eye-catcher is the love lies bleeding, a pink, droopy flower currently in bloom. It’s a member of the amaranth family.

His neighbors have taken notice, becoming gardeners, too. It’s now hard to tell where his yard ends and theirs begin. Some have given him things to plant.

A red mandevilla in a large pot sits in his front yard. Feeders entice birds into his yard, another hobby. Goldfinches love to eat the seeds left behind once the liatris blooms, he pointed out.

Soil can be a challenge

He is yet to find anything that’s hard to grow, but the red clay soil does require some composting and additional top soil, Brown pointed out. This time of year, he stresses the need for plant hydration.

“You have to water every day,” he said, and he does. The best times of day are either early morning or late evening. Plants kept in pots outdoors definitely need that daily dose of water, he said.

The huge surprise on Brown’s personal oasis is the elephant ears plant growing in his backyard, providing for privacy and shade. Some of the ears are more than 3 feet tall. He said he planted them five years ago.

“This is what I call my shade garden,” he said. “I’m sticking to that name even though some might call it cluttered.”

That backyard space is also the place where tomatoes for making tomato sauce take root along with herbs like oregano, chives and dill. He said the crown of thorns displayed in a pot out here is probably 70 years old.

Irises, daylilies, hostas, rose of Sharon, ferns, Solomon’s seal, angel trumpet — all have their roots in this soil. Brown has plants that belonged to his mother and some he just recently planted. He admits to not going on vacation because of his duties to all of them.

And if something he didn’t plant emerges from the soil, he doesn’t necessarily pluck it out.

“If I like it, I let it grow,” he said. “It’s not a weed if you want it.”

Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.

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