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Runner up: Tending garden and taking comfort in memories

As she enters her 80s, Margaret Himes looks to her garden for solace.

She started the expansive garden behind her house in the fall of 1967, just a few months after she, her husband and their three children moved into the new home in Joppatowne.

Himes and her then-2-year-old daughter, Patty, planted tulips in the backyard that first autumn. When they came up the next spring, Patty asked if they could plant flowers every year. Patty, who suffered from a congenital heart ailment, died later that year, but Himes continued to work in the garden.

At first the backyard was heavily wooded, with an understory of mountain laurel and wild blueberries. But over the years, the large trees died and the yard became sunnier. Himes planted roses, liriope and weigela, in addition to the shade-loving hostas, ferns, azaleas and hydrangea. The property is certified as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, and it provides a sanctuary for deer, rabbits and frogs.

For many years, her husband, John, helped her in the garden, designing the curving beds and pathways. In October, he died after a long illness. Himes, however, continues in her garden. "It's a comfort to me to get out there," she says.

A Lumbee Indian from North Carolina, Himes traces her love of gardening to growing up on a farm. "You can take a person off the farm, but you can't take the farm off the person," she says.

She has chopped the wood of fallen trees and fought with a groundhog that returns to torment her each year. Although her expansive garden is impressive, she acknowledges making mistakes, including planting invasive species such as bamboo, chameleon plant and ivy.

At 81, Himes says she plans to slow down a bit. She has hired local teens to mow her lawn, but she doesn't plan to give up the garden. "When I'm working out there, I'm relaxed," she says.

Favorite plants: Roses, tulips, daylilies, hydrangea and azalea.

Tips: "Put a little time in your garden," she says. "You're working in the Lord's soil."

—Liz Atwood, for The Baltimore Sun

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