CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Sitting in the backyard of the Smithson home conjures thoughts of a tropical getaway.
Contributing to the ambience are a swimming pool, large raised deck and gazebo as well as an abundance of flowers, trees and vegetable plants. Walkways lead to multiple garden areas enclosed with brick. Chairs and tables are sprinkled throughout the inviting atmosphere.
Carolyn and Larry Smithson, both 70, moved into their modest brick home on Fort Hill five years ago and have worked on creating gardens since then.
"It's relaxing," said Larry, a real estate investor.
Carolyn, a retired social worker, said the plants don't require much work once you get them going. Weeding is necessary every couple of weeks, she said.
While some features were there when they purchased the home, they have rebuilt, refurbished, rearranged and planted to get the setting just the way they like it. They even have a greenhouse for starting their own plants.
Built in 1962, the red brick house still reflects that time period in some aspects, such as the sunken living room, Carolyn said. Most of their changes have been made outdoors.
The sprawling deck was cut in half to make room for a gazebo and fire pit on one end. Three fountains were added. The pool was cleaned and refurbished. Short brick walls were built to outline the gardens, and plants are added on an ongoing basis.
Carolyn readily admits she doesn't know the names of all the flowers. She chooses according to the color combinations she likes. The flowerbeds include roses, gerbera daisies, clematises, geraniums, marigolds, five varieties of lilies, hibiscus plants and more.
There are also fruit trees, including plum, peach, apple, lemon, lime and fig. The last three are in pots and can be placed in the greenhouse in winter months along with some flowers not hardy in West Virginia winters. The greenhouse was added about two years ago.
Lush vegetable plants include cucumber, squash, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, green beans, and three kinds of tomatoes, including a heart-shaped variety developed by Carolyn's uncle in 1978.