Sherri Johnson and Gayle Seashore

Blooming Where They Are Planted

Sherri Johnson and Gayle Seashore are two sisters who have discovered that perennial pleasure-that dirt-loving pastime-that shooting, spreading, blooming engagement known as gardening. They are among so many women (and perhaps even a few men) who have realized that getting a plant to sprout up where you want it to is somehow so thoroughly satisfying that before you know it, a seed catalog has become your breakfast reading of choice.

Sherri and Gayle grew up in Minnesota on an acre of land, every inch of which was utilized by their mother for her precious plants-landscaping, flowers and a huge vegetable garden.

"Our mom knew every plant and bird and tree," said Sherri. "We gardened with her all the time we were growing up, and she taught us a lot. She instilled in us a desire, not just to look at plants, but to work with them."
Both sisters seemed to have inherited their mother's green thumb. Sherri has been a hobby gardener all her life, and Gayle worked in the landscaping business for a while. Since coming to the Lowcountry, Gayle completed the Master Gardener course, which has perhaps helped the two negotiate their way through a foreign climate.

"Moving down here, we feel like we're novices again," said Sherri. "The growing season is different and there are so many new plants. Things that would be annuals up north are perennials down here."

Now that they've gotten a handle on Southern gardening, Sherri and Gayle have opened their own cottage garden shop in Port Royal called Once Upon a Time Cottage Garden, where they are gladly introducing a concept that is a novelty to this region: the miniature fairy garden. These enchanting creations consist of a pot or box planted with a few species selected for their magical qualities, interspersed with mini chairs, benches and trellises, tiny spades, buckets and watering cans, wonderfully small bird baths, and any other little items that might attract or retain the presence of fairies.

"I've always loved miniature gardens," said Gayle, who says these tiny habitats were more commonly seen up north. "I would tell my daughter that the fairies had left her a note and she would always find it in the garden. Sometimes I set little tea cups out there and said the fairies must have had a party in the garden."

For the young believer, a miniature fairy garden can provide hours of wholesome entertainment. Once Upon a Time not only sells pre-made gardens, they also carry a line of miniature accessories that can be combined according to the creative tastes of the individual fairy gardener. Just coming into the store and looking at the large (by fairy standards) miniature garden set on a raised bed in the center of the garden shop's outdoor patio is enough to inspire any would-be horticulturalist. Of course, they also carry many full-size garden plants, local art, shabby-chic outdoor furniture-most of which is salvaged and restored by Sherri-and cottage-style indoor dÈcor as well.

But the heart and soul of their operation is still the actual growing of plants.

"With gardening you can see your results," said Sherri. "You get your hands in the earth and there is always a sense of wonder when you see what pops up. It gives you such fulfillment."

Up Close

Hometown: Maple Plain, MN Careers: Sherri is a retired university professor; Gayle's background is in children's mental health Hobbies: camping, collecting, going to flea markets Why they love buying local: "We want to support those people around here who are trying to make a go of it. We could order from nurseries in NC or GA, but if there is someone in Walterboro or St. Helena, we'd rather give our money to them." Perfect time to visit them in Port Royal: Crab Fest on April 21st