Couple transforms gardens with creative recycling and clever ideas

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

He is a scavenger hunter. She is an artist. Together they have created a garden that is amazingly unique and fantastically beautiful.

Charles and Ruth Walker laughingly call their creatively landscaped gardens "recycled gardens." However, to do so is to belie the beauty within.

Ruth, the artist, and Charles, the scavenger, have created gardens around their home on Smart Road from every possible throwaway - from the pipes from a church organ to the chiseled and broken remnants from tombstones.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

He has an eye for treasured rubbish. She has the talent to turn it into works of beauty.

The Walkers moved to the old Walker homeplace in 1979. Then, it was little more than a house sitting atop a cow pasture under the shade of six pine trees. To transform the place into a woodland wonderland would take time, imagination and literally tons of recycled materials.

The Walkers could have purchased the materials they needed to landscape the four-acres they called home. They could have, but they didn't. What would be the fun or the challenge of that?

Wouldn't it be more fun if he could scavenge the materials and she could use her creativity and artistic talent to create gardens from the recycled materials? Wouldn't that also make more sense, environmentally?

It would and it did.

There's hardly a spot on the whole place that hasn't been "beautified" by something that someone else has discarded - from broken pieces of sidewalk at First Baptist Church and bricks from the old Standard Chemical Company and Love Street to the body of a 100-year-old horse wagon.

The Walkers welcome visitor to their recycled gardens in true Southern fashion — with a glass of pink lemonade and the cool shelter of the gazebo that is built in part from 100-year-old timbers from a Walker heritage home and salvaged buildings around town.

Charles pointed to the name stamped on the doorstep.

"Adolph Owens was a master carpenter in Troy and he was contracted to build many buildings here in Troy," Charles said. "He was one of the founding fathers of construction in Troy."

Charles is a history buff and he is very proud of his ancestry which has been traced back to Ireland.

"My six times great-grandfather, John Walker came to this country in the 1700s in the King's Mountain, North Carolina area," he said. "I have relatives who fought in the American Revolution, relatives who served on George Washington's staff and in the Civil War, so we have a great heritage in this country."

Charles is just as proud of his forefathers who settled in the Pike County area and raised vegetables and peaches for their livelihood.

"This table top was made from the walls of my grandfather's house," he said, lovingly stroking the old wood. "It was actually the side of a wagon that was used as part of the wall of the house."

The overhead beams were from the same structure.

"Most off of the gazebo is recycled materials, as is most everything in the garden," he said. "The railings are made from the pipes of a church organ, and the old golf balls? They're just there to keep someone for getting caught on the bolts."

No one would ever guess it, but a nearby planter was made from the tub of washing machine and the cover "from who knows what," Ruth said, laughing.

The walkways through the gardens are made from recycled concrete from sidewalks, blocks from dilapidated structures, bricks from crumbling building and chimney stacks and displaced streets.

Ruth did most of the hardscape that forms the five garden pools, planters, barriers and ornamental structures in the garden.

Charles laughingly said she designs and he mows and trims. But the garden is proof that both devote much of their time to keeping it in Garden of Eden shape.

"We planted so that we have something blooming all year long,"

Ruth said.

"Most of the plants come back year after year. We lost a lot of trees to Opal but we still have a lot of shade. It takes years for trees to grow. We started with a few and now we have all of these."

Arbors invite visitors from one garden to another and Ruth quickly points to her favorite - the Whimsical Garden, which was the first one completed.

"I like it because it's filled with so many different and unusual salvaged items," she said.

The arbor and fencing is from limbs from crepe myrtle trees, making it an interesting and fun way to spend a late summer afternoon.

Flowers and pools highlight the backyard and a fenced-off area hides the &uot;"Sanford and Son" pile of stock.

What Charles "salvages&uot;" from any place and every place, including Pinckard Vault and Marble Works. He stockpiles behind the fence for when his wife needs materials for a new garden project.

"It's strange but it seems like every time that I need something, it's there," Ruth said.


flowers, arbors, trellises, shrubs, pools, walkways and sitting areas at almost every crook and turn, it seems there would be no place to landscape.

"Oh, yes, we still have work to do," Ruth said, gesturing to the backyard area.

The latest addition to the Walkers' garden was a gift from their children on their 50th wedding anniversary on Petra's Glen.

"Petra means 'rock' and glen means 'peaceful meadow,'" Ruth said. "So, this is our rock and our peaceful meadow. It's now among our favorite places in the garden."

Petra's Glen is an appropriate name for the Walkers'

peaceful place where rocks and refuge have been recycled into a garden paradise.