By VANESSA MEUIR
Amid the freshly mowed lawns in the Woodridge neighborhood lies a yard of many colors. It boasts pink roses, yellow daylilies, green hostas and purple berries. This elaborate garden sprawls across two lots at 401 Cedar Lane. Inside the house behind the garden, classical music trills through the rooms, and watercolor paintings stand on display in the dining room.
This is the home of 85-year-old Dorthy Grimes, a retired nurse who spends her time entertaining guests, volunteering at local elementary schools and tending to her garden. She and her husband have been living in the house since 1987, and their front yard has never been a lawn of grass.
“When we looked at this house, it was built by an older gentleman, so it was going to fit for our old age,” Grimes said. “And while my husband looked at the house and those kinds of things, I went back and rechecked the yard to see what I could bring here.”
Grimes has had a garden in every house that she’s lived in for her entire life. She was never taught how to garden, she simply just always knew how to do it.
“I know by osmosis I suppose,” Grimes chuckled. “It’s just things you learn through experience and doing.”
Grimes said that she has learned her most valuable life lessons from her garden, whether she is walking in it, weeding it, or just looking at it from her porch. She enjoys watching the animals play among the trees and plants and said she thinks they often behave far better than people do.
“There’s just a lot of things you learn, and then you meditate and think on them,” Grimes said. “I’ve watched little creatures help and protect one another even if they’re not of the same species. And that’s the way we should do, we should support and help one another.”
The neighborhood is situated behind the Columbia Regional Hospital and many other offices and facilities, including a hotel. Grimes often sees people walking around the neighborhood during their lunch break or free time, and they frequently stop to marvel at her garden. Because of this, Grimes is able to meet people from across the country.
“I’ll be out in the yard, and as they go by, we talk and visit,” Grimes said. “I haven’t had anybody stop yet to pull weeds!”
Walkers passing by aren’t the only ones who have taken notice of her garden. Grimes’ yard has proudly displayed a “Best Yard of the Month” sign twice since she’s lived there. The Columbia Garden Club awarded the honor.
While walking through her garden, Grimes likes to talk to the things that grow there. She will see a rose blooming and exclaim aloud at its beauty, or find a nest of baby spiders on a leaf and whisper to them. She doesn’t claim to have a favorite flower, but she tells them all that they are her favorite.
“I come by, and there will be such a beautiful thing, and I’ll say, ‘Oh you’re such a beauty, I just love you, oh you’re just the prettiest thing!'” Grimes said.
Grimes’ garden has inspired her to unleash hidden talents that she didn’t discover until after she turned 80 years old. She painted the watercolors that are on display in her dining room and uses her paintings of flowers and pastoral scenes to create her own greeting cards.
“I’m not Grandma Moses by any stretch of the imagination, but I do a little watercolor, and I know my flowers intimately, so it’s kind of easy to paint them,” Grimes said.
Grimes also writes verse, which she often puts in her greeting cards. Her poetry is also inspired by her garden and the things that she learns from it every day. In many of her cards, she writes a message about appreciating life, and this attitude has been motivated by watching her garden grow over the years.
“There’s always something to learn out here,” Grimes said. “As the butterflies go trickling along, you feel like that’s God’s laughter, and you say ‘Oh, what a wonderful place to be.'”