Fort Dale graduate exploring England#039;s gardens this summer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

England has been described as &#8220a nation of gardeners.”

A 2006 graduate of Fort Dale Academy is spending her summer discovering the prolific beauty of English gardens.

&#8220Every garden has its own distinct features and design, so even though we've seen so many, I can still remember each one,” says Auburn University sophomore, Anne Cumbie Barganier.

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&#8220What's most impressive is how prolific the country seems to be - even the sidewalks are covered in ferns and foxgloves.”

Barganier, 18, is one of a group of horticultural students from AU studying at Myerscough College and exploring gardens across the Emerald Isle this summer.

And those little pieces of Eden have been &#8220amazing,” Barganier says.

&#8220I remember when I stepped off the bus at the very first garden, I took hundreds and hundreds of photos before I even got in the gate!”

The group has already visited Levens Hall, Sizergh Castle, Bodnant, Chatsworth, Tatton Park, Biddulph Grange and Hidcote Manor Garden, &#8220covering the east coast of England down to Wales, and as far south as Stratford-on-Avon,” Barganier says.

All these historic spots are in England's scenic Lake District.

This weekend, Cumbie and her fellow students will head north to Edinburgh, Scotland to the Royal Botanic Garden, with visits to two gardens in the far north, Gresgarth Hall and Ness Botanic Gardens, scheduled for the following week.

&#8220The next week we take a train to York to Scampston and Howard Castle on the west coast. During our final weekend, we visit Blenheim Palace (the ancestral home of the Churchills), Gledstone Hall and Kew Gardens in the south of England,” Barganier explains.

Her favorite part of the botanical adventure so far?

Bodnant, off the Colwyn Bay in North Wales, has been my favorite garden so far. It's about 80 acres,” Barganier says.

Bodnant offers visitors great variety.

&#8220Some of it is very formal and structured, what you would normally think of as an English garden. But tiny trails also lead don down the mountainside to a second area, called the Dell,” she explains.

&#8220The Dell is filled with hundred-year-old trees, giant boulders and waterfalls, not to mention gorgeous perennials and peacocks strutting around. You just don't see that kind of thing in south Alabama!”

Not that the trip is all fun and games.

&#8220We are taking 16 hours of credit for Auburn at the college, which means we have classes all day three days a week, and three projects and a research paper due,” Barganier says.

And there's English food to contend with - &#8220definitely something I haven't gotten used to yet.”

Schoolwork and questionable English cuisine aside, the experience is &#8220a great opportunity,” Barganier says.

&#8220Besides getting to see all these amazing places, the professors at Myerscough have taken us hiking on the weekends, welcomed us into their homes, and always had time to answer our questions or just make us feel at home. If I ever come back to England, I know I'll stop by Myerscough to visit these wonderful folks here.”

Barganier, who received a full tuition scholarship to Auburn, said it was her time working at Billy and Mary Croley's nursery near Greenville that led her into horticulture.

&#8220I remember working with Billy one winter afternoon planting these tiny seeds into tray after tray, with cold rain leaking through the plastic roof on us,” she recalls.

&#8220I came home that afternoon, tired and soaked to the bone, and I really felt like I had accomplished something. I knew at that point I wanted to work with plants.”

Barganier jokes she likes plants &#8220because they don't bleed or take back.”

&#8220Really, I just love the science and the art of growing and landscaping,” she adds.

When deciding on a college, Barganier met with a few of the professors in the Horticulture Department at Auburn.

&#8220I saw how much they do for their students and I was really impressed,” Barganier says.

&#8220Most of (the professors) spent their careers working with the Extension Service or in the private industry, so they're just good, down-to-earth people who really know what they are talking about. If there was a doubt in my mind about what I wanted to do, meeting the folks at Auburn sealed the deal.”

Barganier believes her time working with the Croleys at B&B Nursery has given her a head start on her fellow students.

&#8220I already understand the basic science and practices of growing in a greenhouse and a practical understanding of retail horticulture. This year, Billy took me to some of the nurseries in the Mobile to look around and meet some of the owners,” Barganier says.

&#8220I've gotten more of an education working there than a classroom can possibly offer.”

As for her future after graduation, the horticultural student is still exploring her options.

&#8220There are two tracks in a Horticultural degree: Greenhouse Science and Landscape Design. I'll graduate with both, plus a minor in Agricultural Economics,” Barganier says.

&#8220The Horticulture Department at Auburn prides itself in placing its graduates in a great job in any city they choose, so I am really overcome with options right now.”

Barganier is the daughter of Susan and the late Brooks Barganier of Fort Deposit and the granddaughter of Bobbie Jean Cumbie and the late Kenneth Cumbie of Greenville.