Gardening Keeps 92-Year-Old Boro Woman Feeling Young

Carta Gaither\'s Backyard Garden. Photo from Volunteer Garden YouTube Channel.

Gardening is something that can be enjoyed by anyone. It takes some effort, but the results can be outstanding. Just ask Murfreesboro’s Carta Marie Willard Gaither. The 92-year-old has been working on the garden in her backyard for more than 30 years.

“…[E]very morning when I get up the first thing I do, or almost the first thing I do, I come through the garden,” Gaither told Tammy Algood on “Volunteer Gardner” last year. I got to check my flowers to see what is blooming and what’s new and so on. And especially in the spring of the year when things start popping up.”

Gaither says she had a vision for what she wanted, but no real plan. She just started planting flowers, trees, and adding features like her water garden filled with goldfish.

“I started gardening with my mom,” she told the Murfreesboro Post, “who always had boxes of petunias out front and a flower bed on the side. She always had zinnias and marigolds. One year she had larkspurs and they were beautiful.”

Her garden has zinnias, as well as many different kinds of Hosta, roses, hellebore, trillium, Shasta daisies, zebra grass, ferns and monkey grass. She even planted the pin oak tree about 25 years ago, and it now provides extensive shade for the yard. Which is a good thing, because many of her plants are shade loving.

She was born and raised in Auburntown, Tennessee to a farmer, and one of the decorative pieces in the garden is a big piece of an old tree that once upon a time sat on her Daddy’s farm. She hauled it off in the car herself and then hauled it into the backyard where it stands as a sculptural piece with a unique shape and interesting moss growth.

The gardens flow around a number of patios and other structures, including a gazebo with places to sit and enjoy her hard work. But Gaither doesn’t sit too much. During the summer months, she is up early to work in the garden before the day’s heat arrives. There is always weeding and watering to get done, as well as dead-heading, and she shares many of her plants that have spread too far with friends and family by thinning them out, like her ferns and Hostas.

A lover of homemade chow chow, Gaither also keeps a raised vegetable garden with tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, hot peppers and radishes. It takes her back to the days of growing up on a farm.

As a longtime member of Garden Lovers Club in Murfreesboro, she has won a number of ribbons and awards for her floral design, including The Petite Award from a competition at Cheekwood Estate and Gardens in Nashville in 2019.

Her garden also gained the attention of those planning the annual Discovery Center Secret Garden Tour, an annual fundraiser for the beloved children’s museum in Murfreesboro. This year the Secret Garden Tour took place on June 3. The Secret Garden Tour provides garden lovers with the opportunity to stroll through intimate gardens tucked away in local homes around Murfreesboro.

When not working in the garden, Gaither enjoys canning, painting watercolors, sewing and spending time with her extensive family.

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