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ABE After Hours: Extreme Gardening with Brenda

garden filled with shrubs and flowers

Severe aversion to creepy crawlies. No previous experience with a mattock (or any other garden tool). No prior evidence of a green thumb. Just a strong desire for a beautiful garden and a lot of impatience for immediate results. Brenda Cooke, marketing coordinator at ABE, says she began “working” the front yard in Spring 2020 from "bare dirt" beginnings, gaining confidence and gradually expanding her landscaping ambitions to include clearing “every known invasive in WNC, including monster pokeweed, Chinese wisteria, tree of heaven, ivy, oriental bittersweet, porcelain berry, brambles, multi-flora roses and smilax” from a hillside and an embankment on her just-under-one-acre property in Asheville. Says Brenda, “It didn't take long for me to realizer that weeks of 3 hours daily clearing land after work, and 7-8 hours on Saturdays & Sundays,  isn’t just gardening—it’s extreme gardening!”

Brenda says she is thankful for friends who have become gardening mentors and shared their knowledge, adding "I have found gardeners in general to be a most generous group of people. Facebook gardening groups—local and non—have been a great source of free plants. That's important when you're impatient for results. Everyone is happy to share plants and gardening joy, whether they know you or not!"

Photos: Top of page: the summer garden in bloom. Middle row: the front yard after construction in 2019 vs. the current landscaping; Spring 2022 garden pics.
Bottom row, left to right: Spoils of Brenda’s war on the hillside invasives included a tree of heaven and a 10-foot tall pokeweed monster; blissfully cleared land; triumphant placement of oakleaf hydrangeas and a park bench on cleared land; Spring 2022, Siberian iris blooms bright against a backdrop of lemony lace elderberry.