By Ginna Parsons
For 32 years, Larry and Linda Quinn had a home in Fulton where they tended a garden, complete with a koi pond. But they made mistakes.
“Sometimes we’d put sun-loving plants in the shade or shade-loving plants in the sun,” Larry said. “Our koi pond wasn’t big enough and we didn’t have a good filter system.”
When the couple moved to their current home three years ago, they were determined to learn from those mistakes.
“When we bought this house in July 2010 we couldn’t wait to use some of the experience we acquired from previous trial and error,” said Linda, 66.
There was nothing in the backyard when they moved in but a little mound of grass and pine trees too numerous to count, Larry said. The first thing they did was have about 30 pines cut down so they could have some semblance of a garden.
Then they put down sod, poured a walkway leading to the swimming pool and began work on the koi pond, complete with a waterfall.
“I had someone dig the hole for the pond and I basically did the rest with the help of one other guy,” said Larry, 68. “We built the pond in a week and a half. There wasn’t anything scientific about it, other than knowing I was going to slope the stones a little. It all just went together.”
The result is a 6,000-gallon pond dotted with lily pads and cat tails and loaded with 100 colorful koi.
“I push 16,000 gallons an hour through the waterfall,” Larry said. “The pump runs 24/7, even in the winter. We use heaters in the winter, but the water still freezes a little bit on the rocks.”
Linda feeds the fish every day. When they see her coming, they swim up to a large rock and wait for their dinner. They make a small racket, as they swish their tails and smack their lips, jockeying for position.
“The biggest one we have is probably 18 inches long and the smallest is about a foot,” Larry said. “We put them in at about 4 to 5 inches, but they’ve done well. We tell people one of the reasons we enjoy the fish is they don’t bark at night.”
The focal point of the Quinns’ garden is the perennials.
“We like these because they are easy to maintain and care for,” Linda said.
They have four different kinds of hydrangeas – Vanilla Strawberry, Blushing Bride, Limelight and Pinky Winkie – and six varieties of ferns. They also grow Knock-Out roses, hostas, weeping fig, Korean dogwoods, coneflowers, rudbeckia, mophead cedars, crape myrtles, several varieties of Japanese maples, azaleas and magnolias.
“We probably have 70 percent perennials and 30 percent annuals,” Larry said. “They’re a lot less work.”
Of the annuals they do plant, there are coleus, caladiums, periwinkles, SunPatiens, sweet potato vines, Supertunias, mandevilla, geraniums, elephant ears and angel wing begonias.
“We’ve learned we can’t raise petunias – the pretty wave petunias,” Larry said. “They’ll be beautiful for about three weeks, then they start leaving.”
“We have trouble growing zinnias, too,” Linda added. “They get some kind of white blight on the flowers.”
But the No. 1 annual in the yard has to be Linda’s impatiens.
“They are my favorite,” she said. “All down the waterfall there’s impatiens and we didn’t plant those. They come from seeds. They’re volunteers. See, we’ll buy one color and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ but then some will come back from last year. So I just let them go.”
All around the walkways are drifts of impatiens in reds, pinks, purples and whites. One grouping leads up to an arbor the couple had built in October 2010.
Confederate jasmine grows up all four corners of the structure and perfumes a swing the couple uses to relax.
“Come about April or May it smells so good out here,” Linda said.
While Larry is retired from the shoe manufacturing business, the couple, who are originally from Iuka, still have other ventures that keep them busy, such as Complete Home Care, Fulton Mini Storage and the U-Haul dealership.
But at the end of the day, it’s the yard they enjoy.
“I guess to some people this would be considered work, but to me it is a stress reliever,” said Linda, who enjoys mowing the lawn. “We just piddle out here. We don’t have any kind of plan.”
Larry figures he spends at least three hours a day tending the pond, deadheading, watering and checking on plants.
“I’ve often said I don’t expect to live forever, but I would like to stay healthy and live until I get my yard like I want it,” he said. “That would be a long time!”