Southern Front Porches

Southern front porches are perfect in any season, but especially in spring as we start to move outside. I pass by this house in Tuscumbia, Ala., several times each week and always feel as if the folks who live here are offering me a glass of tea or wine and inviting me to sit a spell, relax and take it easy.

Memorial Day

Welcome, summer! No matter what that silly lunar calendar says, Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of the Fun & Sun season. You’ve got food and drink and friends and family — what else do you need? Usually my outdoor entertaining consists of opening a bag of potato chips and bringing paper plates out to the deck, but folks like my friend Sharon in Huntsville, Alabama, know how to do it right. At a recent gathering in her fabulous backyard, she brought the indoors out with metal serving trays and oversized clear glass candlesticks for statement-making pillar candles decorating the wine buffet — a super idea since I usually think of light-and-disposable for outdoor eating. And, Sharon, I think I need another invitation soon so I can copy be inspired by your great ideas.

Gardens

When you walk up to my friend Sharon’s house in Madison, Alabama, you can tell a gardener lives there by the gorgeous landscaping and flowers in her front yard. But it’s the backyard that shines. This is a gardening paradise and I could move right in and live there — and Sharon’s an easygoing and generous sort of friend so she probably wouldn’t mind. Much, that is. This is the kind of backyard where details delight everywhere you look. I’m not a gardener so all I know about her plantings are that they’re beautiful. I was more drawn to such treasures as benches tucked away in quiet little corners, paths angling off into green adventure and a chandelier hanging from a tree lighting the table. “We wanted it to be a series of outdoor rooms,” Sharon said, “like an extension of our house.” And the thing is that she and her husband did this all themselves over the past 15 years, working on one project in one spot at a time. The result? A backyard paradise that anybody can duplicate. In face, Sharon’s garden is on the Huntsville (Alabama) Botanical Garden’s Spring Garden Tour, 1-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, June 5-6. Her goal is to convince folks that you don’t need money and a team of landscapers and gardeners to create something wonderful. I think she’s succeeding. Call 256-830-4447 or visit www.hsvbg.org for details about the garden tour.