Drive this tucked-away Ozark County road and find a beautiful surprise: Shirley's yard
First-time motorists traveling the tucked-away Lake Road 619, off HH Highway at Isabella, perhaps on their way to Ridgewood Resort, are often surprised to round a corner on the tree- and brush-lined road and find a perfectly manicured lawn decorated with a colorful array of flowers and carefully tended greenery bursting from rock-walled beds.
The beautifully landscaped property is the home of Ronnie and Shirley Rhine Garrison, who have lived on the site since 1982. Ronnie is a farmer; Shirley retired in 2001 after working 28 years for Baxter Healthcare in Mountain Home, Arkansas. She credits her beautiful yard to her own love of flowers and the help of her husband. But the creative force behind the eye-catching landscaping is their son Heath, who lives in Branson, she said. The Garrisons also have another son, Shawn, who lives in Isabella with his wife Jenni and their two sons, Ryan and Tyler.
Their comfortable home, with covered porches front and back and an inviting pool in the backyard, is surrounded by flowerbed borders and a soothing “frog pond” fountain (featuring a ceramic frog that was a joke from her husband acknowledging her fear of frogs).
As long as they’ve lived on the site, “I’ve always had flowers, and I always kept my yard looking pretty, but nothing like now,” Shirley said.
A gift of flowerbeds
It was Heath who took the landscaping up a notch a few years ago when he told his mother he would build her some new flowerbeds for Mother’s Day and her birthday. His first target was the area around a grand old oak tree in the front yard, which, if it had feelings, would probably be glad to move on from its former life.
When the boys were younger, “they used the tree for target practice,” Shirley said, laughing. And then her stepdad, longtime meat cutter Doyle Garfit, hung hogs from the tree when he was butchering.
Doyle and Shirley’s mother, Betty Garfit, lived just down the road for several years. Doyle died in 2009; Betty died in 2016. Shirley’s father is Floyd Rhine of West Plains.
Now the rugged and gnarled old tree that was once shot at by teenage boys and served as a hog-butchering hanger is surrounded by a beautiful, rock-walled bed overflowing with colorful flowering plants and ornamental grasses.
Shirley went with him to the building supply store to help choose the pavers he would use in making the walls he would build – and was shocked at how many pavers he said they needed. “It was a truckload!” she said, shaking her head.
She couldn’t imagine what he was planning. “I can’t see the big picture,” she said. “But Heath is amazing. He just goes out and starts working and it all comes together.”
Paving stones are sometimes dry-stacked in landscaping designs, but Heath mortared the pavers to build the sturdy wall around the oak tree – and also a double set of matching walls enclosing terraced beds nearby. “He leveled every single rock as he set them,” Shirley said. “He was so careful building everything. He wanted it to be just so.”
The flowerbed retaining walls almost seem like optical illusions in the way they’re set into the sloping lawn. After the walls were built, Ronnie took the tractor to the cattle field and brought “probably 25 to 30 loads” of dirt. Then they all worked to shovel the soil into the beds. Next came the fun part – choosing the flowers and planting them so that they complement each other’s color and nothing gets hidden behind a taller or fuller plant.
Admiration from passersby
In addition to blooming flowers, Shirley loves wild ferns and has moved several from the woods on their property to beds next to her house. “I just think they’re the most beautiful thing,” she said. In fact, her grandsons have nicknamed her “Fern” because she is always digging ferns to transplant – or having those grandsons do the digging.
There’s also an unusual plant in one of Shirley’s beds that’s rarely seen in Ozark County – a banana tree! It adds height to the beds but needs some TLC as the weather cools. “We have to dig it up and bring it inside,” Shirley said.
Dozens of other plantings and pots full of flowers are installed around the yard. In the hot summertime, “the flowerpots have to be watered every day,” Shirley says. But she enjoys that job. “I’m not a sitting person. I have to be doing something – pulling weeds and grass or watering,” she said.
The result is impressive, and Shirley often hears from the people who happen to drive by. “I was at the doctor’s office the other day, and someone said, ‘I went by your house last night, and it looks so beautiful,’” she said. Which brings up another creative design Heath installed: nighttime lighting that highlights his design. So passersby are as impressed by Shirley’s yard at night as they are during the day.
Shirley’s friend Sherry Skinner told her recently, “It’s like one of those gated communities in Branson!”
Ginny Matyska, who owns Ridgewood Resort at the end of Lake Road 619, said, “You wouldn’t believe how many guests stop and take pictures of Shirley’s yard and then come and tell me they’ve never seen a yard like it – and they never expected to see it way back here in Ozark County. Everybody comments about it.”
Ginny also noted that, even when summer is over and the blooming flowers are gone, “Shirley’s yard is always immaculate. She puts out scarecrows and fall things, and then she has lots of Christmas things out at Christmastime. It’s pretty any time of year. And you can never go by it without seeing Shirley out there working on something.”