PBS films four Wilmington gardens

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lumina News file photo

The garden of Rex and Sylvia Crippen will be one of four local gardens featured during three episodes of the Public Broadcasting Service’s television garden series GardenSMART. 

Four area gardens will be featured during three episodes of the Public Broadcasting Service’s television garden series GardenSMART.

The gardens surrounding the homes of Hank and Debbie Phillips and Rex and Sylvia Crippen were photographed and filmed by the casting crew on Monday, July 1.

Their gardens will share a 30-minute episode, each with nine-minute segments.

Other episodes will feature the gardens of Andy Wood and Barbara Sullivan, both commentators on WHQR public radio who live and garden in the area.

The chosen gardens were scouted on April 13 during the 2013 North Carolina Azalea Festival.

The Phillips’ French country style home, located on Forest Lagoon Place in Landfall, features front and backyard gardens in addition to an interior courtyard.

They began the garden when they built their home seven years ago.

“We’ve added hundreds and hundreds of plants since,” Debbie Phillips said.

Hank Phillips has family connections to France, where the couple gets a lot of its inspiration.

The Phillips’ gardens feature arbors, birdhouses, window boxes, fountains, container gardens and an array of flowers and plants.

“I think one thing that separates us is that Debbie does all of her work herself,” Hank said. “… I think the nicest feature is the private, interior courtyard.”

All hours of the day, Debbie Phillips can be found working in the garden year-round. Sometimes, she said, her husband has to pull her inside from working as late as 10 p.m. And she does it all for enjoyment, a tradition passed down to her by her mother.

“I garden to garden,” she said.

The two blended informal elements, such as climbing vines, perennials, wild flowers and hydrangeas, with formal ones, such as parterres, topiaries and clipped hedges for a French countryside feeling.

A visual person, Debbie Phillips said she prefers the blues, pinks and pale yellows as plant color combinations, but simply chooses what looks appealing when propagating or adding new garden elements.

The newest feature is a pondless waterfall, created by Drew Thorndike of Cape Fear Water Gardens, with a remote that can increase or decrease the waterfall’s intensity.

Located on Forest Hills Drive, the Crippens’ garden has a lot of history.

Their home, built in 1940, was one of the first to be featured on the Azalea Garden Tour. The Crippens bought the home in 2005. 

During filming, host Eric Johnson asked the women questions, such as, “How did you get started with gardening?” and “What is your gardening philosophy?”

“I am not a gardener,” Sylvia Crippen said. “My mother was a real gardener.”

For the last year and a half, the Crippens have taken over the gardening work.

“What I love about this garden is that it looks like a person’s garden, rather than a garden that was put in by a company,” she said.

Particularly, Crippen said she loves the arbor at the end of the yard, the varied walkways and the ponds where she enjoys her morning coffee.

While the Phillips and the Crippens are not members of the Cape Fear Garden Club, they have both been part of the Azalea Garden Tour in the past.

email kelly@luminanews.com 

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