Advertisement

Passion for gardening lives on for generations

June 29, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. - Gifted gardeners know about the importance of being in tune with nature.

Tina Byers, co-owner of Highspire, an 1894 Victorian home with elaborate gardens, discovered this from her mother and her grandmother.

Working in her garden gives her a sense of peace, Byers said.

"As a gardener, I understand nature rules," she said. "Nature will craft it for you."

Highspire was the topic of discussion earlier this month when the Town of Bath's Streetscape Committee considered taking part of the Wilkes Street property and turning it into a six-car parking lot.

Byers, a Berkeley Springs attorney, and more than 400 petitioners voiced their disapproval of the parking lot idea and the town decided not to pursue it.

Advertisement

Byers said the proposed 20-foot-by-60-foot area next to the house would have taken away an 85-year-old maple tree and the entire Xeriscape Bed that runs along the short spur of Independence Street that is a dead end. The spur is used for residential access.

Also in jeopardy was the Reflection Garden, a shaded sitting area in the side yard that was the first garden that Byers put in after her mother's death. Byers said her mother used to take a lawn chair out to the area and watch the birds.

The majority of the Rose Bed in the left front yard of the home also would have been destroyed, Byers said.

Byers said she helped her grandmother tend to her gardens in Great Cacapon, W.Va., at her home called Willow Wisp, and she watched her mother spend hours establishing many perennial beds of flowers and shrubs that are found throughout the Highspire property.

"They planted the seed," Byers said.

Byers was born in Berkeley Springs along with her twin, Todd Byers. Her mother was from Great Cacapon, and her father was from Hancock.

On the twins' 14th birthday, their parents bought Highspire, she said.

After her mother passed away, Byers moved back home permanently and began adding more garden areas.

"It is my legacy," she said.

It also is her passion.

"I can't deny it and won't deny it," she said.

A tour of the grounds

Byers said Highspire Gardens has about 4,500 perennial flowers, shrubs and trees, including more than 2,000 bulbs planted every fall and spring.

"I stand firmly on Mom's shoulders," she said. "I build on what she started, layer upon layer."

It also has taught her the value of patience.

"Trees are for the future," Byers said.

Byers said she spent a lot of time touring gardens and interviewing gardeners, and was inspired to landscape Highspire further. She added water fountains, patios and large structures with hand-built floors and walls.

Those garden areas were designed by Byers, and Todd helped implement them, she said.

Byers designed and constructed the Courtyard, an entertainment area on the south side of the house that features a cast-iron free-standing fireplace. The brick-surfaced floor was laid by Byers, and she built a 7-foot-high stone wall around it. The stone steps also were built by Byers.

Three water fountains are on the grounds. The main fountain, which is in the Rose Bed, is a three-tiered black cast-iron fountain that can be seen from Wilkes Street.

On the back of the grounds, Byers constructed the 10-foot-by-18-foot stucco Summerhouse, which has a built-in fountain grotto.

It sits on an elevated stone-faced slab that she hired out to build, she said. She added pressed tin to the wall behind the fountain's Greek goddess statute pouring water from a vessel.

Byers recalled how difficult it was to keep the water from leaking out of the pool until she got the leak-proof process right on the third application.

"It's been working fine after three years, but this process was quite labor-intensive," she said.

The area is complete with a hammock, wicker furniture and a breeze from an overhead fan.

"This is where I have my morning coffee," she said.

The Terrace, which Byers designed and built in 2000, is just below the Summerhouse. It has Adirondack seating for viewing the Parterre, which is the area directly in front.

Byers said the Parterre, which means design on the ground in French, is a 23-foot-by-23-foot layout of pavers and river rock surrounding a 9-foot obelisk that Byers designed and had an artist make. It is topped with an armillary of Atlas that belonged to her grandmother. Perennial beds border all four sides of the Parterre.

Byers began the project in 2003, and she and her brother completed it in 2006, she said.

"I really enjoy when people come and understand the hard work that goes into it," she said.

The only Victorian garden in town

Byers is building the Strombrella, which will house a two-seater swing at the far end of the Terrace. She is in the process of constructing the tin roof, which will be embellished with gingerbread scrollwork trim.

Byers taught herself how to build a dry-stacked stone wall, which is part of the back wall of the Terrace. She also learned how to build stone and mortar walls and steps, which are throughout the garden.

"I love that I can enhance or shape it in any way," she said.

Byers smiles when she says the projects have no end.

"Tina is definitely carrying on her mother's legacy," said longtime neighbor Sena McBee, who lives across the street. "She is constantly upgrading and improving her garden."

McBee's daughter, Lindsay, had her bridal party photographs taken at Highspire Gardens last June.

Highspire is a private residence, "but it is for the public to view on open garden days," which usually are select Sunday afternoons, Byers said. She suggested checking the property's Web site, www.highspiregardens.com, for open garden dates.

"It's always fun to see the surprise on people's faces when they stumble onto Highspire," Byers said. "This is the only Victorian garden in town."

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|