Can you take a rock-filled hillside and turn it into a garden paradise?

Morty Pinson saw beyond that difficult landscape and created a shady haven for a variety of seasonal shrubs, flowers and trees that are now maturing. It took seven years for the garden to become a showplace where she and her husband, Sam, enjoy relaxing or entertaining.

She credits an aunt, the late Ruth Hill of Muskogee, with inspiring her love for gardening while she was still in elementary school. Her first foray into gardening was a rose garden while she lived in Muskogee's Grandview area.

The wooded setting overlooking Lake Tenkiller is near Keys and Pettit Bay. Morty's biggest challenge was taming this wild, rather undeveloped setting. She created winding concrete pathways through the garden, designing each new area as the seasons changed and her interest in planting grew.

Never afraid of manual labor, she moved many of the large rocks that littered the area to more strategic settings. A mix of annuals or perennials now accent their new location. A variety of colorful pottery pots are among the upper garden hillside features.

Some of the larger rocks frame a koi pond, the scene of a tragic disaster when a neighboring cat had a feast on 11 koi. The new koi are now thriving, protected by mesh netting. 

The newest addition is a cedar lattice gate, marking the entry to a framed pergola, perfect for entertaining garden guests. All the pathways wind their way to what she calls her "greenhouse." Really, it's an elegant "she-shed." Morty used the back of the large barn for one side of the greenhouse, accented with garden-theme furnishings, a chandelier, art and abundant plants.

Never content to say the garden is finished, she recently created a new lower garden facing the home's deck. Once a grassy meadow, it's now another setting showing her prowess for creating gardens.

The roster of plants in both gardens is like a floral alphabet, ranging from azaleas and artemesias to rhododendron and yarrow. There's a fairy garden, a St. Francis statue and a handmade, hand-painted oxygen tank bell, adding interest. Morty's gardens are an ever-changing canvas for nature and her artistic garden talents.

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