story and photography by sandi tomlin-sutker
you find the most unexpected people in the most unexpected places!
Imagine an old tobacco farm in eastern Madison County. The Jarvis family
has lived on this piece of land since just before the Civil War. Jack
Jarvis father had stopped farming years ago but Jack, his love
for the land just budding, decided to take it back up after high school;
he started with the obvious and lucrative crop of tobacco. For several
years he leased the land for tobacco farming. But at some point in the
early 90s, Jack realized he no longer wanted tobacco on his land.
For the next six years he worked to mend and renew the farm. He took
up landscaping and digging wild azaleas to sell as he slowly rebuilt
the soil and paid attention to the land.
propitiously, a Mars Hill woman asked him to do a Japanese-style landscaping
job for her. He knew nothing about Japanese gardening, but resourceful
and curious, he went to the public library and some local bookstores
and began to read all he couldand fell in love with Asian art
Jack is an expert both in the art of Bonsaihe has one of the best
collections Ive seenand the subtle art of Japanese gardening.
In only six years he has transformed the depleted tobacco land into
a lush canvas of lotus ponds, flowing hillsides of fragrant juniper
and the intriguing combinations of color, form and texture typical of
Jack has created so much more than a beautiful landscape. His sensitivity
to the land itself and the creatures that inhabit it led him to embrace
organic methods. And that has resulted in a rich diversity on his four
acres. Tiny brown frogs sprang from the grass everywhere we walked.
Wild rabbits and purple martins and muskrats are all at home here. The
lotus ponds (started with three wild Hindu lotus) are full of Koi that
swim to the edges and big frogs that croak and plop into the water as
we walk along.
the plants! There are of course the requisite maples, pines, blue spruces,
many varieties of cedar and juniper and barberry. Large swaths of daylilies
in a hundred colors nestle into conifers or stand alongside an ever-blooming
love of and knowledge of plants is well-known enough that arboretums
and nurseries bring unusual plants to him to nurture and zone
(determine if they will survive in our USDA zone 6B). He showed me a
sport winged elm and a weeping Red Bud named Parasol Tree
that the Arboretum regularly comes to take cuttings from; and several
plants that he rescued before they could be discarded are thriving now,
fitting beautifully into the serene, lush surroundings.
Jarvis is truly an artist; he has created an enduring and evolving work.
He is a gentle man, one who so obviously loves creating and sharing.
As we walked through the gardens, I noticed a nearly white daylily.
When I told him oh, my grandma was always after a white daylily
he immediately offered: the best time to dig them is in the fall,
come back and Ill give you a piece of it. I plan to do just
that and Im scouring my garden now to see what I can offer back.
[689-3859] does much more than Japanese Gardens; they do waterfalls,
ponds, and most types of landscaping. Watch your TV listings for a future
HGTV special featuring Jacks gardens and lotus ponds.
WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA WOMAN
is a publication of INFINITE CIRCLES, INC.
BOX 1332 MARS HILL NC 28754 828-689-2988
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Celebrating the Spirit of Place in Western North Carolina