June 2012
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A Visit to the Gardens of Lake Martin


CAMGA President Candy Jones, Equality, and Secretary Amanda Borden, Tallassee, chat with Jim Scott as he thins spider lily bulbs on one of the many trails in his 15-acre garden.

CAMGA member Mary Long, right, Elmore, admires a Lace Cap Hydrangea with variegated foliage while touring Jim Scott’s lakeside gardens.

More than 40 Central Alabama Master Gardeners’ Association (CAMGA) members recently spent several hours exploring the remarkable 15 acres of Jim Scott’s gardens on the shores of Lake Martin. Each took away multiple memories and images of intimate, hidden seating and dining areas that are the results of more than 15 years of Jim Scott’s un-duplicable creative gardening.

Arches of stone and hedge, shaded allées and other pathways all lead to something wonderful at Jim Scott’s garden.

Water and stones play an important role throughout the gardens. Dozens of streams, fountains and waterfalls utilize water from Lake Martin pumped to the desired location and back into the lake. These streams range from just a trickle of water with stepping stones to enable visitors to cross over to huge, multi-tiered waterfalls with hundreds of gallons of water roaring back toward the lake. Unknown tons of stone, much of it re-cycled from road-building projects across the Southeast, act as walkways, terraces, retaining walls and stepping stone bridges across the many streams. Stones form pathways winding up and down the hillsides comprising the gardens.

Elevated wooden walkways and viewing towers not only add architectural interest but serve as excellent spots from which to view a number of the gardens from yet another perspective. And, following the principle of plants belong any and everywhere, some of the area wooden gazebos have plants on their roofs. In some instances, visitors become aware of these unexpected areas of color and interest only when looking down from a viewing tower or hillside pathway.

Coming upon Scott, as he worked on his hands and knees thinning spider lily bulbs, no one would imagine this was the creative genius behind these remarkable gardens.


                                         Waterfalls, ponds and little streams can be found throughout the property.

"You have to thin out these bulbs or they stop blooming because they become too crowded," he explained.

When asked how he determined which of the seemingly hundreds of kinds of plants to plant in any given spot, he answered something to the effect of "wherever I think they’ll add to the look and enjoyment of that particular area. I don’t really follow any set gardening rules. I plant where I think the plant will be attractive. If it doesn’t work out well there, I guess it wasn’t meant to be there after all."

This inattention to the rules of gardening has, in the most part, resulted in a huge range of plant materials. Many single plants, trees or shrubs are positioned and highlighted to accent their foliage, shape, color or unusual growth habits, or to draw attention to yet another intimate seating or dining area. This gardening technique was commented on by several CAMGA members when they found plants said to require six to eight hours of full sun growing and performing well in the heavily-wooded gardens in spots that may receive only two to three hours of direct sun each day.


 A stone pathway weaves through the garden.


A bridge through the canopy of the trees is something of interest at the garden.


Above and right: Numerous observation points dot the property offering remarkable vistas of Lake Martin.


The gardens are in a constant process of change and additions. In one area, workmen were involved in the initial stages of a new area. Retaining walls, some lawn area and plants have already been added, but there was obviously much more to come.


CAMGA members marvel at the classical murals in the tasting room of the wine cellar, an intriguing part of Jim Scott’s gardens on Lake Martin.

In addition to the innumerable types of plants, Scott has accented many areas with found art like a single piece of colorful pottery or stone architectural details up to and including classical statuary. In one instance, visitors view what appears to be the remnant of a huge, classical stone column some distance away, across the inlet of the lake. Only when visitors actually approach the column do they find it’s made of vertical panels of wood, painted a light color to resemble stone.

Among the hidden treasures of Scott’s gardens is a remarkable wine cellar, accessible only when visitors carefully balance on flat stones as they make their way across a stream of water. In addition to the hundreds of bottles of wine in the cellar, the tasting room is decorated by hand-painted, classical-looking murals. A heavy, antique dining table, with chairs and candelabra, offers a particularly impressive spot to pause and sample the vintages.

Many of the CAMGA members were hesitant to leave at the scheduled time because they hadn’t been along every trail in every part of the gardens. They’ve been invited every year, if they’d like, to see what has been added or changed.