OSKALOOSA — Sabina DeJong never has trouble locating her husband, Fred.
Fred will be in his garden, tending his flowers from dawn to dusk, Sabina said.
"Eight in the morning to 6 at night," she said with a chuckle. "Can't even get him to come in for a sandwich. He loves it, though, so that's good."
That love shines through in Fred's garden. A wind chime adds gentle musical accompaniment to the peaceful space. Fred has hummingbird visitors to his garden, as well as pollinators.
Even if some of the blooms have faded with the passage of summer, the garden is still a riot of color and life, from peachy orange hues to royal purple colors, soft pinks and fiery reds.
Punctuated throughout the garden are sculptures and other decorations. Two sculptures are from Fred's friend – and Herald columnist – Curt Swarm.
Fred pointed out a Swarm sculpture that had barbed wire and had a vine climbing it. The piece is lit up with green lights.
Tropical plants such as mandevilla and hibiscus, in bright red and yellow are planted in Fred's garden, along with a variety of perennials
"I put a few pots in to just keep color going," he said. "I had some beautiful daylilies but they're just about done."
In a bed alongside the house, another Swarm sculpture can be spotted, a colorful piece with butterflies and a caterpillar.
"I think it's neat to be able to incorporate some of those sculptures on the yard," Fred said.
Purple coneflowers and daisies were planted nearby, and Fred's rose bushes still valiantly had some blooms, near some zinnias. He planned to plant some sunflowers nearby.
Fred has a bit of experience with roses, as he worked at DeJong Greenhouse ("no relation," he said) for 12 years.
"I loved that job," he said.
A short fence separates the DeJong yard from the neighbors. Fred said he and Sabina enjoy finding signs to put on the fence.
"When we moved here," Fred said, "this fence was double the length and way overgrown lilacs. We took them all out and I took all the board off and I cut all the rotten pieces off the bottom and I ended up with not much. I thought we could put stuff in the background."
Signs and wooden hangings showcase some lilies and leafy plants, as well as a sculpture of Jesus with a child nestled amongst the plants.
Fred said one of his favorite plants is a crown of thorns cactus.
"I love that peach color and the blooms last forever," he said.
Another tropical plant, passionflower, was wintered inside.
"They were so much bigger last year and it's a tropical, so I have kept it two winters in the house," he said. "I think this year I'm going to try to take some shoots off and get some new."
There were other cacti scattered around the garden.
"I wasn't too much into cactus, but then I had a friend and she got me started on them," he said. "Of course, they have to come in and we have a small house."
Fred said he has been a gardener since "forever."
"My grandfather, I always got to work with him in the garden and hoe and everything like that and he taught me a lot. I always just loved it. I just love being out here in the dirt," he said. "For me, it's relaxing, it's peaceful out here and I can reflect and I feel close to our maker when I'm out here in the morning."
It was hard for Fred to pick out a favorite place in his gardens.
"My favorite time of year is when the daylilies are blooming full and I have a whole bunch of different ones," he said. "Earlier in the spring – I have them cut back now – but I have a lot of iris. And I really, really like them."
Now that he's retired, Fred said he can spend all day every day out in his garden.
"And my wife says 'I don't know what you find to do out there,'" he said. "I love to mow, I love to do that kind of stuff."
Fred doesn't do a vegetable garden anymore; just sticks with flowers.
"I used to do a lot of vegetables when my kids were younger," he said. "That way, they could holler about having to pick beans and peas and everything, raspberries, but I don't anymore."
Sabina and Fred have good neighbors, they said. One neighbor has a vegetable garden plot and shares with the DeJongs.
Fred pointed out a threadleaf coreopsis, which is relatively new to him; along with a butterfly bush with bright orange flowers.
"It's part of the milkweed family. When they go to seed in the fall, they have the milkweed. I planted some more because now it comes in a pink and white and this," he said. "You can't find a lot of orange [flowers]. The butterflies just love it."
Managing Editor Angie Holland can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.