I have a dear friend and client named Pamela Keene who owns a beautiful 3 acre estate located in Flowery Branch, North Georgia. With its wide variety of flowers, vegetables, fruits, trees, and a unique collection of roses, Pam’s garden is a monumental triumph to say the least. Over the years Jason and I have helped with projects here and there, but the brilliance of Pam’s home can only be attributed to her passion for gardening and tenacious personality. As a freelance journalist who works and travels during the week, I have always wondered, how does she do it? Here is the story of Pamela’s garden, Rose Lane.
With giant pine trees, hardwoods, and a colony of pink lady slippers growing naturally on about 50 percent of its acreage, Rose Lane’s planted items flow throughout the rest of the landscape excitedly, as unencumbered as Pam’s adventurous spirit. The garden boasts 60 hybrid tea rose bushes, 3 dozen knock-out and climbing roses, 50 camellias, nearly 100 Japanese and Encore azaleas, 5 species of hydrangeas, dozens of daylilies, confederate roses, Yoshino and Kwanzan cherry trees, a 10 foot tall Chinese viburnum, vegetables, blueberries, raspberries, and the list goes on. When asked about her process in planning her garden, Pam laughed and said “Everything is everywhere.” The method to her madness lies in living in the moment. She explained, “I see a plant – or two, or three or a dozen – and I bring it home. Then I try to find a place to plant it. Sometimes plants sit in my driveway for as long as a year before I find just the right spot. A friend gave me a T-shirt that says: ‘It’s not hoarding if it’s plants!’”
So how does Pam do it? How does she keep it all alive and well and still have a full-time job? The secret, she says, is all about putting in the work, and sometimes that means getting help. In a garden, there is always something to do. Pam works in hers one or both days out of the weekend and has a lot of help from her husband, Rick Fulgham. His favorite task is caring for and harvesting the fruits and vegetables. “Last year,” she reminisced, “we harvested 100 pounds from our dozen blueberry bushes!” Even talking to her on a Monday evening she mentioned Rick was outside picking more blueberries. He had gathered nearly 16 pounds and this was only his 3rd time picking this season.
Pam also said she has been blessed to have help when digging holes, spreading mulch, and doing other laborious jobs. She stands by the notion that it is always worth it to invest in your garden by fronting the cost of a treatment or project that will be beneficial to the health of your yard and save you money in the long run. For example, hybrid tea roses are very high maintenance. Pam owes the success of hers, in part, to an expert who religiously visits the roses every two weeks to spray with insecticides and fungicides. She also has an electric fence surrounding her roses to deter any hungry deer from taking a bite in the night.
I am proud to say we at Art of Stone Gardening have also lended a hand in creating the beauty and prosperity of Rose Lane. Pam and Rick have employed our services on a number of occasions, from designing creek beds to manage excess water runoff from an adjacent property, to building a serpentine stone wall that stretches across the edge of the garden. Before she was my client, we were friends who met through a Gainesville women’s group. As Pam puts it, “We just really connected on several levels – gardening, art, nature.”
Our first project consisted of constructing all the stonework for the new home she and Rick had designed and built together at Rose Lane more than 16 years ago. Later, we helped pour the foundation for Rose Cottage, a 12-by-16 garden shed nestled in the heart of the Rose Lane landscape. With 9 large windows, a tile floor made to look like rough wood, heating and air, custom cabinets, and a cathedral ceiling made of ambrosia maple, its glory rivals Pam’s prized hybrid tea roses. Her husband Rick, a cabinet maker, built it for her. It is filled with sacred finds from Pam’s travels, including two door pulls from Jordan, hand-blown glass from across the U.S. and other countries, and paper lanterns from Laos. When asked about Rose Cottage, Pam exclaimed, “Please DON’T call it a ‘she shed.’ Argh!”
2021 has been a year of improvements for Rose Lane. In addition to removing about one-third of the area’s zoysia grass to put in more raised garden beds for roses and heirloom vegetables, we also installed French drains to solve a water issue occurring in the front of Rose Cottage. Even more, we covered a bare spot in the garden where grass refused to grow by creating a large stepping-stone path and recommending ground-cover plants for the area. The arched entrance of the patio from the driveway is now covered in confederate jasmine and is much more appealing and welcoming.
Pam is most proud of her garden when she is able to use it as an offering to others, which is frequent. No matter what season or day of the year, Rose Lane always has flowers in bloom, and Pam is always sharing them. She says her favorite feature of her garden is her roses, but this is not due to any form of personal exhibition. Pam believes in sharing nature’s beauty in any way she can. She states, “from the first blooms in spring through the first frost or later, I cut the blooms four of five times a week and share with friends, my doctor and dentist, the lady who delivers our mail, and occasionally with strangers.” Even more, Pam shared Rose Lane with us on our wedding day. In 2011, Jason and I married in her backyard on what can only be described as the perfect day.
Though you might assume Rose Lane’s name is due to its magnificent and diverse display of roses, the truth of the namesake is actually much more sentimental. Pam tells me, “Our home is called Rose Lane, in memory of my mom, whose given name was Rosa. She taught me all about gardening from the time I could figure out how to plant.” In every home she has owned, Pam has given life to gardens. She views gardening as a life-long passion that knows few boundaries. She loves being in the sunshine, wandering through the yard, relieving stress by taking in the fragrant bloom of a magnolia, and admiring the beauty of a new variety of daylily. These simple pleasures in life, she says, keep her young and agile. Her advice to an aspiring gardener? “Gardening is an amazing hobby, no matter what your interests. Find something that appeals to you – a certain kind of plant or genus of plant, or a particular type of gardening, such as food gardening or pollinator attracting – then build your knowledge base from there.”
Pam is a full-time freelance journalist who travels often. Starting a public relations agency in Atlanta in 1984, she now focuses on journalism and photography, writing for nearly a dozen regional and statewide magazines. Her work includes gardening columns, travel, and personality articles. You can find her website here: pamelakeene.com