Talent and whimsy combine to form Barbara’s gardens

Published 10:00 pm Friday, June 3, 2016


Barbara Tanner

It began in Atlanta.

That’s where Barbara Tanner was living when she took a summer part-time landscaping job.

“I found out that I really liked doing that,” the creative Tanner said recently. A tour of Tanner’s series of themed gardens showed that the spunky Gowensville-area resident has talent, and also a rollicking imagination.

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In her Asian Garden, Tanner pointed out that over the past 11 years, she planted everything but three holly trees which were originally there.

As with her other gardens, the Asian Garden boasts several themed statues. It also has a large tree house of sorts that exudes an extra sense of peace. Leading to the Asian garden is a green wooden bridge, a gift to Tanner.

“I like to add statues here and there,” Tanner said. She is often the recipient of gifts of statues and other figures that find appropriate homes in her gardens.

Small benches and other places to rest abound. “I like to have seating in each of my gardens,” she said.

While in Atlanta, she took a course in landscape design, and “found out you didn’t always have to go by the rules.”

In some cases, she’s transplanted some plants two or three times “because they didn’t look right to me.”

Tanner’s creations include an angel garden, with appropriate statues punctuating the plantings and a Zen garden. “There’s nothing but stone and rock here,” she said, “and it’s more for contemplating, and gives me a sense of peace creating it.”

Feeling at peace comes with the territory of visiting any of Tanner’s themed gardens. It also helps that it’s very quiet out there.

On a more serious note is her Spirit Garden, created for all seven of her dogs who have passed, one of whom was named Spirit.

Another of Tanner’s passions is keeping therapy dogs, whose visits to patients in nursing homes and hospitals brighten those patients’ lives. In addition to their impact on patients’ lives, those dogs “kind of take care of me,” Tanner said.

Tanner’s most recent creation, and another serious theme, is her Honor Garden, honoring and memorializing those who have served, and often given their lives, as members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

“It’s tranquil in here,” Tanner observed of the Honor Garden. That description fits all her approximately 12 gardens.

Flat stones lead the way through the Honor Garden, past a number of small white crosses.

Three of the crosses note the years, numbers of casualties, deaths and those missing in action.

A small wooden sign notes “This garden is dedicated to all those (the military, the police, the K-9 units, and firefighters) who have given their time, and often their lives, to keep our country safe, and to Eric Jensen, U.S. Air Force.”

Jensen and Tanner became pen pals while he was in the Air Force.

Tanner grew up in Atlanta, and moved to Buford, S.C. Her son-in-law, a partner in a landscaping business in Columbia, offered a new branch to Tanner in Greenville. She joined the business, and eventually sold her interest in it when she retired.

As with many who make use of their creativity, Tanner notes, “I love doing that. It takes a lot of time, but I love it because it’s not a job.”

Most of her plants are perennials. Also, most stay in one place for a while, unless transplanted, or moved if they grow too large.

Whimsy plays a major part in Tanner’s creations. “Anything goes,” she smiled.

“Porky and friends Pig Pen, visitors welcome,” announces a sign affixed to a metal gate. Two pig statues grace the corner of that garden. The smaller resides in a sty created from a donated wooden doghouse.

Following the whimsical theme, another area is decorated like Alice in Wonderland.

A small metal dog figure attached to another fence sits atop a sign noting, “So many bones so little time.”

Another more-seriously themed garden is based on traditional English gardens.

“Between this and pet therapy, it takes all my time,” Tanner admitted, but with a smile.

“I just love what I do.”