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April flowers find appreciation

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By Cindy Simpson

A jaunty breeze drifts flower blossoms and their fragrance through the air on a hill overlooking both the Tennessee and Clinch rivers and Kingston’s Fort Southwest Point.

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“This is our own private park overlook,” Jim Miller said. “It is one of the most historical views from Roane County.”

The property of Jim and Carrie Miller is a popular destination for floral lovers, including the Harriman Garden Club, which has seen members visit numerous times over the years.

“He’s really worked on this place,” observed Mary Mathis, a longtime garden club member who was anxious to revisit the garden.

Mathis and other members have given plants to the Millers, and she looked forward to seeing what they did with hers.

Carrie Miller said most of the gardening is her husband’s affair, a hobby he’s taken up since he retired.

“He’s an outdoors person, and he stays outside. He was miserable all winter because he couldn’t get out,” Carrie Miller said.

“I retired, and I had to have something to do so I just started taking care of it,” Jim Miller added. “It keeps you busy all the time. I love it.”

The roughly 30 acres have been developed largely by their son, Greg Miller, who began the project in the late 1970s.

“He didn’t want to mow, so we decided we’d start a garden with wildflowers,” Jim Miller said.

Greg Miller went on to get his degree in horticulture and landscape design and now is general manager of a nursery and landscaping company in Etowah.

Jim Miller got a lot of the shrubs from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency when it had a program offering people plants to feed wildlife.

Jim Miller loves his garden, especially the sizable wildflower garden around his home with its countless varieties of flowers, trees and shrubs mixed in with rocks and manmade streams that would remind a young girl of the classic story “The Secret Garden.”

“We have probably got 40 to 50 different species of wildflowers,” Jim Miller said. That goes along with different native shrubs.

“They are all self pollinating. They require no maintenance.”

Carrie Miller’s favorite flowers are the weeping cherry trees and the Virginia Blue Bells.

“They are beautiful,” she said.

Some of the plants in the wooded area around their home include sacred ferns, wood poppies,  a variegated holly tree, trilliums and Jacob’s ladder.

Carrie Miller is very proud of the design of their little garden nook, the stream and pond with three goldfish and the porch swing nestled near the water.

“Our son designed, dug it out, brought in the rock, did the whole thing,” she said. “It is so peaceful. You can sit down, and it is sort of a stress-free zone here.”

Frogs can be heard even in the afternoon, making themselves right at home in the shady garden glen.

In addition to their wildflower garden, the Millers have trees and flowering shrubs along their pathway to their blueberry bushes and vegetable gardens.

Some of those include an almond bush, buckeye trees, Lenten roses, viburnum, wisteria, hazelnuts, Alabama snow reef and winter honeysuckle.

Jim Miller said there are only two things that don’t have to be protected from the deer that visit their property: onions and potatoes.

In addition to those and the blueberries, the Millers also grow peas, lettuce and tomatoes.

His vegetable and fruit plants, which are already doing well, are used for a variety of fresh food.

“We have our own recipe for salsa. We give it away a lot,” he said.

Jim Miller was asked about one tree in particular, a sugar plum cherry tree.

“They are for the deer,”  he said.