A Walk Through Miss Linda's Wonderland
"Welcome to Linda's Garden," is what the little sign beckoned when I entered into the backyard of Linda and Fred Peter's home. The sign should have read, "Welcome to Linda's Enchanted World Where Nature Reigns and Imagination Soars!"
Linda Peters and her three dogs, Lily, Daisy, and Babe, welcomed me with a glass of iced tea. As I climbed two steps up to the deck to put the glass on the railing, she asked, "Did you see Honey?" Puzzled, I responded, "Honey?"
"She's my Sulcata Tortoise there up on the deck," she explained. As I turned around, I saw a huge turtle strolling around the deck. Linda called her by name and the tortoise turned and headed in our direction. As I petted Honey's head, I commented on her size. "We haven't weighed her this year, but last year she weighed around 50 pounds," Linda stated. Intrigued, I nestled into an Adirondack chair on her back patio to find out more about this paradise I had just entered, and the woman behind it all.
Most people know Linda as Miss Linda. She is the owner of Beaufort Montessori School, a preschool that she founded in 1982 for children ages 3-6-years-old. One of the Montessori philosophies is that the school should provide a homelike atmosphere. This school couldn't be more like home, because Linda and Fred built their home with the school as part of the plan. The school is on the first floor, and the Peter's home is the on the second floor.
After learning that Linda grew up on a farm in Michigan, where she had a little plot of her own to grow vegetables, I also discovered that this gentle soul joined the Marines as a young adult. She came to Beaufort for basic training, and once gone, she truly had no desire to return. As fate would have it, two young men were moving into the apartment below her in Atlanta. She offered to help; one of them was Fred Peters from Beaufort, SC. They married in 1980 and high-tailed it back to Beaufort-home-sweet-home ever since.
At this point, we decided to set out into the garden. But this isn't like any garden you've ever seen before. Don't even think rows of plants, Linda's five-acre backyard is an adventurous jungle filled with walking paths, flora, fauna, animals, and excitement! In addition to being Linda's passion, this garden is a hands-on, treasured learning ground for the children, too. As we approached the first walking trail, I immediately knew I was in for a magical journey. Linda's eyes brightened as she took on the role of my tour guide.
Throughout the journey, we went through areas that were named with signage and all. There was Prehistoric Lane, Lookout Lane, Goat Mountain, Sparkleberry Forest, Honey's Trail, Silicon Valley, and Hard Rock CafÈ. Sparkleberry forest was where Linda had hung prisms from an old chandelier in the branches overhead. As the sun caught them, brilliant colors splashed here and there, and danced across our faces. Silicon Valley was a grove of bottle trees, handmade by Linda and Fred, filled with colorful bottles that were a visual feast. How lucky the young minds are who get to roam and explore this fertile ground everyday.
I encountered beautiful camellia gardens filled with a menagerie of varieties and colors. In fact, Linda is known for her stunning camellia's and actually grows them to sell. Next we picked grapefruits and cumquats fresh from the citrus garden. Along the way, I stopped and admired the two peacocks, with their brilliant turquoise heads and necks, the snow-white peahens, the ducks, and the chickens. Of course, there are fresh eggs in a variety of colors. Linda explained that the brown chickens lay brown eggs. Some of the chickens lay bluish-colored eggs. You can bet there are no plain white eggs in Miss Linda's world!
We then paused at the Koi pond, where dozens of colorful fish swam about in the water-some of them were huge.
Miss Linda is also known for her roses. While none of them were in bloom yet, there must have been 50 or 60 rose bushes, all of them pruned, with new growth, baby buds, and signs of vivid blooms on their way.
We took a left onto Honey's Lane, and that's when Linda told me that Honey (the tortoise) is broom-trained. She takes honey on walks through the trails, gently prodding her in the right direction with the straw end of the broom. However, every time they come to the left at Honey's trail, Honey automatically turns left, and stops and checkout the colorful metal turtle that sits by the trail. Linda jokingly laughed, "That's Honey's boyfriend!"
This fascinating garden is buzzing with life, color, and surprises. But that's not the only thing buzzing. Linda is also a beekeeper. I saw the bee huts in the distance, and learned that she gets into full bee-garb and harvests honey. She has a bee hut where she manages her operation. There is always fresh honey for sale at Miss Linda's.
It's obvious from the awe-inspiring creativity of this garden that Miss Linda is imaginative, original, adventurous, and filled with a wonderful sense of humor. As we find ourselves back nestled in the Adirondack chairs, we listen to her six parrots. One is singing, "la, la, la-la," while another one is squawking out, "Fred!" We laugh and talk more. This time more on a personal level, I tell her how I'm absolutely awe-struck. I share with her that I had to beg for hamster for years before I got one, and how brave I think she is for allowing such unique creatures into her life. I ask if I can come back and bring friends. It would be selfish of me not to share the treasure I found at Miss Linda's. She says, "Of course, people come all the time." She gives me a pint of honey and a big hug before I go. I suddenly wish that Miss Linda could be my teacher, too.