Lake Norman & Mooresville

Giving up her beloved garden for a new one

How do you say goodbye to a garden? Retire the shovel that dug it.

Marie Avison is doing just that, but she is not giving up gardening. She is retiring her old shovel with her old garden and moving on to plant a garden at her new home.

Tucked away in Mooresville is a neighborhood called Muirfield where the Avisons live in an immaculate home with a garden that is worthy of a layout in Southern Living magazine.

In 2007 and 2009, the garden was featured on the Lake Norman/Mooresville Garden Tour that benefited Habitat for Humanity's Women Build.

"I'll miss my birds and my plants. I have chitter-chatter all day," said Marie Avison, who with her husband, Marshall, is moving across town to a new house and her next garden.

Her garden in Muirfield attracts bees, butterflies and song birds.

"I dug every hole that you see," said Avison. She will retire the shovel, 21 years old and covered with duct tape, when she moves.

Avison came to the United States from Ireland Sept. 8, 1965, and worked as an au pair. Avison was engaged to be married, but she wanted to see the States before she settled down.

After six months, she wrote home and broke the engagement. The young man's mother was angry with her and thought she had met someone else. She hadn't, but she wanted to stay in the United States.

She met her husband five years later. They celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary last year. After moving around the Northeast, Marie and Marshall settled in Mooresville 11 years ago.

When she works in her garden, Avison ties her hair back and dresses in black so you can't see how dirty she gets.

"Don't ever bring anyone home unless you tell me," she warns her husband.

She slips on her garden sneakers and steps into the yard and hears the birds ask, "Is that you, Marie?" Avison said. "They probably think I'm a big black crow."

Roses, azaleas, camellias, Mediterranean heather, Japanese maples, jasmine, ornamental grasses, hibiscus, hosta, boxwoods, dogwoods, clematis. She's always looking for where she can put the next plant.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Avison was planting three ornamental grasses. She had dug two holes to plant on the high part of her hill when her neighbor called out to her that an airplane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York.

Avison stopped and watched what was happening on TV, then went back out to finish planting.

When she dug another hole for the third grass, her neighbor again yelled and told her an airplane had crashed into the Pentagon.

Avison named the two grasses on the high part of the hill, the Twin Towers and the lower one, The Pentagon.

Later, a small flat grass sprouted between the Twin Tower plants and the Pentagon plant, which Avison named Pennsylvania. It grew a little and then disappeared - similar to how Marie feels the Twin Towers and the Pennsylvania story fades in public view.

Marie credits her father with her love of gardening. Growing up in Ireland, they walked the gardens and orchards of Shelton Abbey, which was then the manor home of Lord and Lady Wicklow, where she saw her first orange azalea.

And, a gardener was born.