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Gainesville woman finds perspective, enjoyment in gardening
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Ronnie and Agnes Hamilton of Gainesville have had a garden for almost 20 years at their home on Lake Lanier in northwest Hall County. They have visitors come to see it every year, and about 10 plants are in bloom now. - photo by Scott Rogers

Gainesville resident Agnes Hamilton considers herself a third-generation gardener.

“I got the gene,” she said. “I sure did.”

Hamilton said both her grandmother and mother were gardeners, and she’s been continuing the tradition for the past 20 years.

She started her current garden at her home on Lake Lanier in 2004, after she went through quite a few hard times in her personal life.

“In 2000, I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, and my husband had a stroke and a heart attack in the next year and the next year,” she said. “And then the next year, our son had Guillain-Barré. He had a very critical illness and was paralyzed for a year.”

Then, Hamilton was in a serious car accident.

“The Lord brought me through all that,” she said.  

After all her tribulation, she said she wanted to plant a garden to “glorify the Lord and (her) friends and family that helped (her) so much.”

Hamilton said she now spends about two hours a day working in her garden, an activity she considers “good therapy.”

“When you get out and work in the garden, everything doesn’t seem so important — you know, the bad things,” she said.

Hamilton said a lot of her plants are special because they were gifts from family and friends, including her mother and grandmother. 
“I’ve got Rose of Sharon — and my grandmother would be 118 now were she living, and years and years ago the mother plant was at her house,” Hamilton said.

She said her garden now stretches over the whole yard.

“It’s all around the house,” she said. “I’ve got a wooded area, and it has a lot of stones and rock paths. On the front of the house toward the lake is where the native azaleas are and the hydrangeas and everything. It’s just all around.”

She admitted it’s become so big there are too many plants to count.

“I did have enough sense when I planted to plant perennials,” she said with a chuckle. “So they’re faithful about coming back every year. We do some annuals, but not a tremendous amount.”

She said her garden has about eight to 10 plants blooming now, but there will be even more later.
“Right now, the irises are blooming,” she said. “I’ve got a swing in the garden, and on that is Lady Banks rose. There’s a lot of hydrangeas. And it’s almost time for the Louisiana iris. Something new is blooming every week.”

Hamilton also mentioned her native azalea honeysuckle, which has become quite a hit in the community.

Honeysuckle azalea
Agnes Hamilton said she loves the scent of the native honeysuckle azalea in her northwest Hall County garden. Photo courtesy Shirley Owens

“It's just absolutely beautiful,” she said about the plant. “There’s just a pilgrimage for people to come to see it because you can't see it from the street. The fragrance is just wonderful. In the evening when the air is heavy you can smell it all over the yard. You can smell it in the street. It is just lovely.”

Her garden also draws in local residents every Easter.

“We have sunrise service in the garden,” she said. “We’ve been doing it for 12 years. We used to have it on the dock, but when the lake was so low we started having it in the garden, and everybody loved having it in the garden.”

Hamilton said around 75 people usually attend the service.  
“It is a blessing to everybody, and to us especially,” she said. “We do it for the community.”

And while she loves reaching out to people in the area, she really keeps her garden up because she enjoys “being close to nature and being close to God.”

“It’s something I really enjoy doing,” she said. “If I do say so myself, it is pretty. It’s not my doing. I put the plants out, but it’s certainly not my doing.”