Finding Her Joy
The Smith Garden

By Kacy Green • Photography by Brian W. McDonald

Audrey Hepburn once said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” When a heart is breaking, the belief in tomorrow is sometimes all we have. “When my husband passed away, I began gardening,” Dothan, Alabama, resident Betty Smith tells. “It was a way to work through my grief,” she explains. “He passed away in ’98. We were married almost 50 years,” she continues. “I had gardened a little here and there, but nothing like I do now.”

Smith was born in Geneva County at her grandmother’s house. She moved various places throughout her life, but finally settled in Dothan. “We bought this house in 1969,” she states, glancing around the home. “We bought it and started fixing it up.” Her home is quaint and cozy, rendering cottage-style flair, blending soft textures and tones. “It’s comfortable,” she says with a smile. “I live all over it.”

“My husband died from lung cancer, and losing him was hard on me,” Smith shares. “Gardening gave me something to do, something to look forward to.” She steps though a side door that leads to her backyard. Round bulbs strung above the walk present a festive appeal, offering a warm welcome. “I started with the perimeter,” she points down a side fence line and across the back of the yard. “I wanted the entire perimeter to be gardens.” Groundcover, vines and florid blooms create framework for her garden art. “This is sedum,” she leans down, brushing across a creeping cover of yellow. And, for the life of me, I do not know the name of this little orange one, but I like it.” 

Sundry hues are well-represented, refreshing the mind and restoring the soul. One might be inclined to find reason for sitting right here all day. “When I lost my husband, I knew I had to keep busy,” she states, looking around the yard. “I had gardened just a little, but had no real knowledge of it.” Smith made contact with people who could provide direction, and thus began the journey of discovering a new passion.

“See that yellow rose,” she refers to a bright beauty commanding its own space. “My children gave that to me. I’m letting it sit there to see how much sun it gets.” She acknowledges, “I have some others that aren’t doing as well, so I’m trying this out. Then I’ll know if I need to move them.” Gardening is trial and error. As you learn, things change. Seasons of the year change, as do seasons of life. One beautiful aspect of gardening is the ability to arrange and rearrange at will. Like painting a picture or decorating a home, the possibilities mind few boundaries, leaving an open door for creativity ...  [subscribe to read full article and see more photos]