By Lloyd Singleton | Photography by Allison Potter
a symbiotic relationship
KATHERINE WOLF WEBB’S home is newish,
built in 2006 but in a Spanish-mission style
that has a charming, historical feel. The sal-vaged
front antique iron garden gate opens
to an unconventionally free-form yard; St.
Augustine turf meets riotous beds of goldenrod, Joe Pye
weed, cemetery-orphaned Easter lilies and shrub roses.
My knock on the front door is answered by the artist
herself, a mutual plant admirer. She expresses delight
that I want to know the stories of her plant collections
and begins by sharing about her indoor specimens.
The begonia collection is admirable, with representa-tives
of rhizomatous, cane and rex types. A most inter-esting
variety features a big, green leaf with propagules
springing from the leaf veins. This unique specimen is
Begonia hispida var. cucullifera, named most recently in
1953. However, the mutation that gives rise to tiny plant-lets
all over the surface of the leaf was called “phylloma-niaca”
and actually first found on a different begonia, B.
Phyllomaniaca. They are called plantlets, but most never
develop past that first leaflet.
The southern exposure courtyard is reminiscent of a
visit to Palm Beach, Florida. The gold stucco walls are a
fitting backdrop for climbing fern, and the native under-appreciated
plant Greenbriar Smilax glaucus is a strong,
lofty climber decorating the balcony. High in a Florence-damaged
tree is a treehouse for birds providing nature’s
music in this urban setting. Goldfish swim in a pond
shaded by several species of Japanese maple.
The pathway leads from the courtyard back to a lean-to
style greenhouse, the artist’s propagation laboratory
and a bucket list accomplishment. The backyard is a
work in progress and contains an exceptional espal-iered
Sasanqua camellia, muscadine grapevines, and
a former chicken coop. Big leaf Fatsia, ground orchids
Spathoglottis, and mature Camellias attest to this lovely
lady’s verbal “lifetime contract as a gardener.” Art and
nature are celebrated in this human’s garden.
Lloyd Singleton is County Extension Director, NC Cooperative
Extension New Hanover County Center at the Arboretum.
Potted plants, including a large Calathea orbifolia, soak
up window light in Katherine Wolf Webb’s dining room.
Inset: Plantlets grow from the leaves of a Begonia hispida.
Opposite: Plants set against the golden backdrop of
Katherine Wolf Webb’s courtyard create a warm and
WBM september 2019