Pat Bittinger keeps busy any way she can.
The 73-year-old Gainesville resident builds, repurposes and constructs furniture, rescues dogs (of which she has six), keeps up with her two grandchildren, has bought and remodeled two houses in Gulfport, Miss., and cultivates a garden.
Her garden, which is only one of her many hobbies, has recently won her the 2016 Residential Beautification Award.
“Bob and Pat Bittinger’s home in Gainesville features a quaint garden with great plantings,” Robin Halstead, vice president of community development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a press release. “The area includes beautiful flowers, bird feeders and creative pieces including chairs and benches that are handmade by Pat.”
Like the two homes she remodeled, her garden needed some work.
“It was a totally different yard,” Bittinger said.
In the past few years, the Bittingers have had a drainage problem in their front yard where their garden is now.
“I just dug up a lot of stuff,” she said.
And it worked. Now she likes to focus most of her energies on container gardening and keeping an eco-friendly view on how she handles her plants.
Her husband Bob worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for 15 years, so she picked up some tips along the way.
“Living on the lake, we have a responsibility,” Bittinger said. “Even for my grandkids’ sake.”
She tries to avoid using chemicals, recycles religiously and lets bugs bite what they will.
“I know they need to eat, too,” she said. “I’m pretty adamant about my recycling.”
The Bittingers visited Ireland, where Pat noticed residents carry their own cloth bags to the grocery store. If they don’t, they have to pay 60 cents for plastic bags. She was inspired by this environmentally friendly way of life and brought it home to Georgia.
“It’s amazing how little things can make a huge difference,” she said.
She has a very laissez-faire way of looking at weeds, too.
“If weeds come up, I pick them,” she said. Yert she doesn’t like to cut down anything she doesn’t have to, and lets things grow as they want to.
It takes about 80 bags of mulch to cover her garden areas.
When she’s not gardening in it, she enjoys sitting out at her table under her Cryptomeria tree, which provides ample shade, whenever she can.
“It always has a nice breeze,” she said. “It’s always 10 degrees cooler than everywhere else.”
It also doesn’t need nearly as much water as some other trees.
Bittinger isn’t too picky about what goes into her garden, and prefers her garden to have an eclectic feel that changes from season to season. Colorful flowers aren’t necessarily her thing, she said.
“Just green is soothing to me,” she said.
She usually lets the dogs loose in her fenced in front yard and watches them frolic around in her garden.
In one corner of her garden, she had some leftover flagstones she made into a walking path toward the backyard.
“I can add masonry to my resume,” she said jokingly. But she does create some of her own pieces to add to her garden, including an iron headboard that she styled into the garden space near her front door.