A writer pays a visit to a thriving garden built ‘from scratch’


An invitation from a reader recently took me to the gardens of Bill and Emmy Matson, both master gardeners, in Simpsonville’s Gilder Creek Farm subdivision.

Having returned from being abroad, the Matsons started their garden “from scratch” this spring. Upon entering the backyard, I was enchanted by their perennial bed and annual color, as well as their container gardens. There were moon vines, rudbeckia (black-eyed susans), salvia (largest genus of plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae), purple sage, cleome hassleriana (spider flower), elephant ears, scarlet runner vines, Fuchsia, and more.

There was a new herb garden with garlic, “walking onions,” basil, and rosemary. Looking toward the screen porch, there was a raised foundation garden full of succulents, “hen and chick,” “flapjack,” and “jade plant.” Each section was full of plants that Bill and Emmy had started from cuttings, clippings, or seed. Drip irrigation has been installed to care for all the raised beds and the container gardens.

Looking beyond these three gardens was a small, compact, and well-designed raised-bed vegetable garden. The usual summer plants of tomatoes (including Roma for homemade paste), squash, cucumbers, beans, eggplant, and peppers were thriving in the beds, built last spring. The vines were neatly trellised, and, needless to say, I was impressed.

Bill has also designed and built a greenhouse on the property that will be used for starting cuttings and seeds and protecting certain plants during winter. Equipped with an electric heater and controlled by vents that open and close, the greenhouse is one of their passions.

In their garden, the Matsons grew each plant exacting a specific result for each variety of tomato, French green bean, pepper, and eggplant. Their treasure was a small yellow pear-shaped tomato that grew in grape-like clusters. The seed came from a trip to Germany. The Matsons are true seed scavengers, which all gardeners can relate to.

Discovering a garden — whether it be that of a friend, a neighbor, or even your own — is such a rewarding experience. Open up the gate to our own secret garden and explore what, in the words of Bruce Springsteen, “may be a million miles away.” See you in the garden.

Tomato Paste
Recipe shared by Bill and Emmy Matson
Makes about nine half-pint jars

8 quarts Roma tomatoes (other meaty tomatoes can be used)
1 1/2 cups sweet red peppers
1 cup chopped onions (optional)
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. oregano (optional)
1-2 tbsp. honey (optional)
1 tbsp. salt
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Wash and trim tomatoes. Blanch and remove skin.
Combine all ingredients except garlic in large stockpot and cook slowly for 1 hour. Press through sieve.
Add garlic and continue cooking until mixture is thick enough to keep its shape when you spoon it. Stir frequently. (Emmy slow cooks her batch all day.)
Pour through sieve to strain seeds and pulp. Pour into half-pint canning jars, leaving half an inch of space.
Screw on lids and process in water bath of boiling water for 45 minutes.

Kathy Slayter is a Greenville Realtor and Clemson-certified Master Gardener who is passionate about growing, cooking and eating her homegrown food. Contact her at kathyslayter@gmail.com.



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