The Art of Adaptability
Floral artistry is the newest expression of Joyce Watson’s love of gardening. With some floral foam, picks, wire, tape, clippers, thrift-shop containers and grocery store or hand-picked flowers, the EMG fills her home with new floral arrangements every week, and often gives her creations as holiday, birthday and hostess gifts. Her reputation as a “flower” lady has quickly spread through her new home community of Lake Frederick, at the edge of Winchester, where she started a club for flower arranging (now on hiatus due to COVID restrictions) at Trilogy’s community activity center.
The former owner of Wine Made Simple in Charlottesville, Va., Joyce closed her business and began actively pursuing her second passion – gardening. In 2017, she became a member of the Piedmont Master Gardeners Association, serving Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville, and volunteered to be an editor of their monthly newsletter.
With the wine business behind her, she dedicated her free time to gardening. Joyce and her husband, Bob, already had the perfect landscape to work with – a 12-acre property bordering the Mechums River with tall pines, pasture and a pond. “It had all the features of a Girl Scout Camp,” she said.
The knowledge gained from the MG coursework, however, was both a blessing and a curse. “I noticed things that I wasn’t even aware were problems,” she said. Specifically, the significant amount of invasive species. “I was driven to eradicate every Autumn Olive and Tree of Heaven on the property,” she said, which, alone, was a monumental task. Instead of relaxing, she found unexpected solace in working the land and getting her hands dirty. In addition to cleaning up, she also created. Joyce and Bob tended a large, fenced vegetable garden and, eventually, about a dozen other gardens. There were perennial gardens and gardens for cut flowers and herbs; an all-white “angel” garden, a Japanese garden; a pollinator garden, a native garden, and one for tropical plants, which had to be dug up and replanted every year. “I made a lot of work for myself,” she said with a smile. And she enjoyed it all. When the maintenance finally got the better of her — when it became a “burden,” she said, “I knew it was time to move on.” She left the next owner, who promised to do his best to maintain it, with an extensive list documenting the gardens and plants she was leaving in his care. “I miss some of the gardens, but not the back-breaking work,” she said. Adapting to change is one of her key strengths, she noted.
In September 2019, she transferred to the NSVMGA and immediately volunteered as editor of the quarterly newsletter. And while she may have left the hard labor behind in Charlottesville, she carried forward her strong sense of stewardship. “I think legacy is about leaving the world better than you found it,” she said. “For me, that translates to creating a better habitat for nature to thrive.”
With Home Owner Association rules governing what can and can’t be done on their new property, Joyce and Bob first petitioned and received permission to plant four trees on common land behind their deck. Rules also dictate that they can only plant within 3 feet of their house, but that wasn’t enough, so the Watsons also received permission to dig another front garden. Then they started ripping out the landscaping that came with the house, replacing barberry with viburnum, beautyberry and other native species to encourage pollinators, and they turned the garden nearest the front door into an herb garden. They had a plot in a community vegetable garden and took up container gardening on their deck. “It’s Charlottesville on a much, much smaller scale,” Joyce said. But it’s not insignificant. Her neighbors have taken notice, and some of them may soon be following the Watsons’ lead. In a short time, Joyce already has made a positive impact on environmental diversity in the community.
Where before she could walk out her door and have immediate access to a wonderland of floral delights, for now Joyce is content having access to 900 acres of trails, woods and wetlands to wander, none of it hers to maintain. Sometimes she forages with her granddaughters, collecting pine cones, cattails, grasses, branches and other natural elements to use as the basis of her floral arrangements, or as decorative ornaments she wires to picks. The flowers, she said, are the secondary layer to her “more natural, less formal” designs.
As she continues to adapt to her new lifestyle, Joyce is already thinking about her next project. “Do you know anyone I can talk to about bonsai?” she asks.
To learn more, check out this extensive list of flowers, trees, shrubs and grasses suitable for floral arranging.
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