YORK — John and Debbie Shiflet have enjoyed creating beautiful places in the backyard of their historic Wright Street home. They enjoy relaxing on its broad porches and entertaining on a brick backyard patio.
“I’m sure we both consider gardening to be our primary hobby,” said John Shiflet, retired director of York Place, the Episcopal Home for Children. “It’s not formal, it’s not elaborate. We just try to create pretty little spots.”
The Shiflets are among four York homeowners who will open their yards and gardens for tour Saturday during the annual Backyards and Beauty Spots tour presented by the Episcopal Church Women of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 108 E. Liberty St., York. Four other gardens also are on tour, including the church garden.
The Shiflets moved into their early 1900s home about six years ago, when it was in the final stages of a renovation by neighbors Jim and Libby Bradford, who bought the place in poor condition, then gutted it and fixed it up.
The garden was overgrown and neglected. But together, the Shiflets have worked as a team to cultivate a garden that has been transformed into a serene outdoor living space. He cares for the grass and breaks up the soil; Debbie tends the plantings and designs the beds.
“It’s pretty eclectic,” John Shiflet said of the yard. “We have a big backyard that’s just open. We’ve only been here about six years, so there’s a lot still in the works. We fenced in the backyard with an old-fashioned fence that contains the dog and keeps out the deer.”
A focal point of the backyard is a large brick patio with a dinner table and wrought-iron seating where the Shiflets enjoy entertaining. The seating area is surrounded by 10 large tea olive bushes that are fragrant when in bloom.
There’s also a large arbor the couple made from copper tubing, covered with white lights and two white mandavillas that will eventually grow to cover the arbor. An azalea bed is in progress at the rear of the yard, and a large porch swing dangles invitingly from a tree in the middle of the yard.
Debbie Shiflet said the couple hired someone to lay the pavers and designed the plantings and potted arrangements around it. “We knew we wanted the fountain to be part of it,” she said of a gurgling fountain that includes a statue of a frolicking boy and girl.
She said the couple’s son, John, now an attorney, dubbed the area the “secret garden” after a favorite childhood story, “because were kind of tucked back in here,” she said.
Other stops on the tour are:
• Rena Strawborn, 324 E. Liberty St., a small, meticulously laid-out yard which overlooks a 5-acre woodland park that is tended by the owner for the community. A small stream meanders through the area and highlights azaleas and other shrubs under the towering trees.
• Charles Boyd, 230 E. Liberty St., a large well-planned backyard with traditional plantings. Oakleaf hydrangeas line the drive leading to the backyard beds, each planted with summer flowers and perennials; all are anchored by English boxwoods. A fountain is the focal point in one area, while another has tables and chairs for outdoor dining.
• Clemson Extension Service, 120 N. Congress St., planted by the York County Master Gardeners. Rocks and mulch define the beds; the rear are raised vegetable beds and a small garden house for storing tools.
• Daniel Rueff and Michael Dellinger, 229 Kings Mountain St., which includes an herbal walkway with a center birdbath and side bench. Plantings and fencing around both the pool and house provide privacy and tranquility. Statuary and unusual garden items tie in with the stone work around the pool and adjoining pool house.
• Chapel Garden at York Place, 234 Kings Mountain St., a small garden and adjoining brickwork installed to honor a benefactor. It has recently been restored by the youth of Good Shepherd Church.
• R.M. Inman II, 1101 Black Highway, a restored historic farm that will open June 8-9 for the York County Ag+Art Tour. The adjacent peach packing shed will open as The Market at Inman Farms May 18, selling local produce and items from artisans.
• Church of the Good Shepherd; 108 E. Liberty St., which has a garden planned, planted and cared for by parishioners. Watched over by a statue of Saint Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners, this spot is anchored by a fountain and surrounded by plantings of Lenten roses, knockout roses, azaleas and camellias. Borders of bright Creeping Jenny, Angelina and crocus enclose daffodils, tulips and daylilies.
Want to go?
What: Backyards and Beauty spots garden tour, presented by the women of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 108 E. Liberty St., York. The tour includes a buffet lunch at the parish hall, a plant sale and an art sale with works by local artists.
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, May 11 for the tour, and lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25, including lunch; lunch-only tickets are $12. Advance tickets are on sale through May 9.
Details: For reservations or information, call Jeanne Ferguson at 803-684-6020 or Diane Linkous at 803-684-4889. Checks payable to Good Shepherd ECW may be mailed to Good Shepherd, PO Box 437, York, SC 29745. Pick up your tickets at the church, 108 E. Liberty St., the day of the tour.