Courtyard apartment resident Bonnie Lipsey, earned the Beatification Award this month for her garden. --Katie Wood
Courtyard apartment resident Bonnie Lipsey, earned the Beatification Award this month for her garden. -- Katie Wood

Lipsey’s garden earns Beautification Award

Published 8:36pm Tuesday, May 14, 2013


When it comes to gardening, 83-yeard-old Courtyard Apartment resident Bonnie Lipsey only has a small space to work with, but she has worked with the limited space she has, layering different varieties of plants in the soil and multiple pots outside her home, creating a beautiful, lush oasis of color and greenery — and the city has taken notice.

Lipsey, who is originally from Memphis, moved to Selma in December of 2008 to be closer to her son, and said she began working on her garden during the spring of the following year.

“I grew up on a farm and I’ve always loved to grow things. My desire has always been to make something more beautiful when I leave it than when I found it,” she said while sitting on her patio, looking out over the coral, lilac and pink blooms.

Lipsey said her mother and both of her grandmothers liked flowers and always had beautiful yards, but noted she learned to love flowers and gardening on her own.

“I just love nature; I love working with nature and being in nature. I like to take a plant and put it in the ground and just see what I can do for it,” she said, adding that she has never had any kind of training on how to garden, and actually did most of her research from plant magazines. “I just kind of studied them. I get a lot of catalogs, nursery catalogs, and I will study the plants. They usually will have a write up about the plants, you know, if it likes shade, how tall it will get, when it blooms and that has helped me more than anything that I’ve really studied.”

Lipsey added that creating her luscious garden hasn’t just happened over night, but rather it has slowly grown and expanded over the years.

“I’ve had to take it very slowly, because I have fibromyalgia awfully bad. I’ve just sat on a stool and taken a knife and spaded the ground up. I’ve really done most of it sitting on a stool that they deliver milk in,” she said, pointing to her blue milk crate that she scoots across the area as she works.

With so many beautiful blooms, it is no surprise that neighbors across the courtyard often comment on her garden and seek advice for their own.

“Everyone just remarks how pretty it is when they come by. They’ve seen it from when I first moved here, most of them, until where I have it now, so I think they’re all pleased of it,” she said. “They’re always teasing me about my green thumb.”

Lipsey said the soil here is extremely dry, so it takes a lot of water to keep the plants hydrated.

“We’ve had plenty of water this spring; I’ve had to water very little, but over in the hot summer I’ll get up early in the morning and water — that’s my best time,” she said.

Lipsey noted that one of the best things about gardening is getting to experiment with different plants and seeing what works well together — especially in a limited space.

“I like to see what I can do with my space with certain plants; see what makes the space stand out, what adds to the space. Every plant I put out I knew except for about four plants — I knew how they grew and what they would be when they matured, so I knew what to expect from them. I knew if they liked the sunshine or shade and I put them where they’ll be most suitable to their adaptation,” she said.
“You just have to experiment when you’re gardening. So often what you’d think will work in a space, won’t, and you just try it and then if it isn’t like you want it to be, take it up and put something else. If they don’t look right, I’m not afraid to pull them up.”

Lipsey said although she has done her research on the plants, and gives them what they need — she didn’t grow her garden all by herself.

“The Lord’s given me the ability to do it, and I couldn’t have done it had he not given me the ability and the sunshine and rain and all that it takes to make a garden,” she said. “And I see the Lord in every one of my plants — the beauty of the Lord and his graciousness. You can’t look at a beautiful flower without seeing the graciousness of the Lord.”

There’s just something about a beautiful flower, Lipsey said, that brings people joy and happiness. She said her garden is one of her greatest joys.

“It’s a joy to walk out there every morning and see my garden,” she said. “When you get  [nearly] 84-years-old and you’ve lost your companion and your children are far from you, you need something to fill in some heart space. So I call my garden my ‘heart space.’ It just fills in some void where my family and my loved ones would have normally filled in.”

Lipsey’s “heart space” brings joy not only to her, but to her neighbors as she loves to share her plants, noting she often trades lovely plants with a lady who lives across the way from her.

The only people who really get to see the garden, she said, are just the people that normally come in and out of the courtyard.

“But I’m happy for anybody to see it, because I think it adds beauty to the courtyard,” Lipsey said.

Selma City Councilman for Ward 3, Greg Bjelke took notice of Lipsey’s garden oasis and awarded her with the Selma City Council Beautification Award for residential yard of the month. The award, Lipsey said, came as a complete surprise.

“It happened about three weeks ago,” she said. “I think it was a Monday — I got up and opened my blinds, and it was there [in the yard]. It was a complete surprise, I knew nothing about it.”

Lipsey said she needs more space so she can grow a bigger variety of things, as she is very limited as to what and where she can grow her plants. Her garden currently extends the length of her apartment and wraps around the side. And she added that most of the blooms have already come and gone for the season.

“That’s the way with flowers, they do their beauty and they’re here and gone, so you enjoy them when they’re showing their beauty for you,” she said. “I look forward to seeing them again next year.”

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