The swing is the focal point of this part of Wayne Grisham’s yard. Photography by Jessica Turner.

Just down the street from Gary Isett’s place sits another spectacular yard, though there’s nary a Big Boy nor Peggy the Pegasus in sight. If you travel down Abrams between Mockingbird and Lovers, you’ve seen it: the one with a multitude of arbors, colorful bird houses, yard art and a pretty amazing array of plants and flowers. This, neighbors, is Wayne Grisham’s world. 

Though Wayne brushes off any praise for his yard when it’s not in bloom, the fact remains that it’s eye-catching year round. While his backyard is a lush, peaceful wonderland of ponds, gardens and walkways, the side yard next to Abrams is most visible to passersby.   

It’s obvious Wayne, a retired pharmacist, takes great joy and pride in his yard work, all of which he does himself with no help, with the exception of the support provided by Honey, his terrier mix, and Patches, his elderly Chihuahua mix. Both tend to stay close by as Wayne works outside, Honey barking at the occasional walker and Patches begging to be picked up.

Wayne Grisham’s yard. Photography by Jessica Turner.

About 30 years ago, Wayne purchased this unusually large corner lot, not so much for the house but for the spacious yard where he could pursue his passion for gardening. It was kindled during his years growing up on the family farm in De Leon, a small town about 130 miles southwest of Dallas.   

As a youth on the farm, his chores included helping with cattle, pigs, commercial egg-laying hens and peanut production. He also picked peaches every summer at a large fruit orchard and had a job budding fruit trees at neighboring Womack’s Nursery, still in operation today and always a must-stop when visiting home.

Wayne Grisham’s yard. Photography by Jessica Turner.

But somewhere along the way as a young man, Wayne decided to spread his wings. “Working on farms was enjoyable but made me realize that I didn’t care to make it a career choice unless they could figure out how to air-condition the outside,” he laughs. “However, it did give me a good work ethic and a passion for gardening and yard work. So I essentially brought the farm to my yard in Dallas.”

In retirement, Wayne finally has the time to garden as much as his heart desires — and that would be daily, weather permitting. “I tell people I’m fortunate to have a full-time gardener,” he says with a mischievous twinkle. “Unfortunately, it’s me.” 

On the contrary, it’s apparently fortunate, for he appears to be in his element. Wayne is a kind soul whose crystal-blue eyes light up as he gives a visitor a grand tour of the yard. The front features a large oval flower bed and several trees, including what remains of two palm trees, both of which perished in last year’s winter storm. Wayne has made the best of it and installed a whimsical, wide-mouthed frog on the trunk of one and several birdhouses atop the other.  

Most eye-catching, though, is the iron fence-enclosed “garden room” created to the side of the home. Step right this way through the screen door, which is framed by an arbor topped with birdhouses of red, orange, blue and green. On either side of the arbor is a picket fence, salvaged from a trash bin at a nearby church.

“The fence was in bad shape, so I repaired and stained it,” he says. “As they say on TV garden shows, it made separate rooms,” a process he has repeated throughout his yard.

Raised flower beds crafted from found lumber will soon bloom with zinnias, dwarf marigolds and daisies. A row of blackberry vines, perennial hibiscus and pomegranate bushes grow nearby, sharing space with plum, peach and Bradford pear trees.   

The focal point of this “room” for many who pass by is the charming little seating area, complete with a Caribbean-blue swing that conjures Key West breezes. It is essentially a room within a room, as the swing is framed by sections of picket fence on either side and backed by a discarded/repurposed door and pair of shutters. Potted plants and a blue and white outdoor rug complete the cozy space.

A tour of Wayne’s place includes multiple references to recycled and repurposed items, practices he’s embraced, though not habits he learned on the family farm. “I can’t say recycling was a part of growing up,” he says. “Farming was mainly about putting food on the table.” He says repurposing found items is one of his most rewarding practices/projects, and he’s a big recycler, even encouraging the practice with Honey on their four daily walks

“She runs to pick up any discarded plastic bottles on our walks. Later I put her stash in the recycling bin,” he says. ”When people see her carrying the bottles they usually laugh and say she is carrying her own water. I say ‘no, she is an environmentalist.’”

All his work has brought joy to the neighborhood. Wayne smiles as he recalls the “many kind responses I’ve gotten from people,” one of whom documented his yard.

“I had one gentleman who was obviously a professional photographer who spent one whole morning taking pictures,” he says. “I was surprised when I received a package with incredible photos.” 

He says he’s also had several folks driving by who called out praises, as well as a good number who left notes telling him his yard brightens their work commute. But his most surprising response came from a group of college boys walking to the St. Patrick’s Day parade who were all saying, “what a cool yard.” 

Not one to rest on laurels, Wayne’s yard work is never done: “I enjoy perfecting it.” But all his work really boils down to one simple reason, he says: “I just enjoy being out in nature.”

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