By Patricia Williams
(KNOXVILLE, TN) This could be the last season to visit the Secret Garden of Angela Bridges at 138 Morningside Drive in East Knoxville. The award-winning, historic property has earned the Excellence Award from the Metropolitan Planning Commission, and Renovation Award from Knox Heritage Society. It is also on the National Historic Registry.The garden was a featured open-garden, fund-raiser of Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum. No longer a member KBGA, Bridges continues to allow public viewings for free.
From now through July, viewings are 9 a.m. to noon weekdays; 8-11a.m., and 4-7p.m. on Saturdays; and 4-7p.m.on Sundays. Guests are offered refreshments of homemade lemonade, sweet iced tea, and cookies; a Southern hospitality standard.
The established garden includes a rippling pond, fountain, red barn, and a section with vegetables and of course a wide variety of native flowering plants and succulents.
The 1920 structure was a perfect fit for Bridges, who personifies classic southern charm with an extra dose of self-assurance. The property had been vacant for many years, according to Bridges, and needed lots of work to become livable again.
“When I saw it, I really liked it. It had good structural integrity, and charm,” said Angela Bridges. As a last resort, the previous owners, the Thompson (Photo) family, placed the property in a blind auction. If it didn’t sell demolition was a consideration. Bridges bid potentially saved the historic, red-brick, two-story, residence from demolition.
After renovating the structure, Bridges moved in and turned her attention to the yard. She decided to transform the backyard into a garden. She said that she had never gardened on-her-own before, but was no stranger to it. Bridges was born in Georgia. At 15-years old she was sent to Knoxville, which was a more city-style of life than what she had known.
“I wanted a Victorian-style garden,” said Bridges. “My son, Walter, helped me to find aged, stepping stones and river rocks to match the character of the house. I wanted everything to fit, nothing that looked new.” No Southerner’s garden would be without vegetables. There is also an area for edibles that includes; okra, tomatoes, squash, lettuces, cabbage, collards and various greens. She cans and shares the harvest with neighbors and friends.
The garden was a respite for Bridges where she could unwind at the end of the day from her demanding job at United Parcel Service delivering packages to businesses in downtown Knoxville.
Bridges has been retired form UPS for over 10-years and is now ready to retire from the demands of a 3-story home, yard, and her backyard get-away for a lifestyle that is less physically. She has put her prized property up for sale, with plans to move to a smaller space or even a condo – where she still intends to have a patch of flowers and a few veggie plants.