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  • The Mount Airy News

    Years of work make stately, relaxing home for Mills

    By Alice Connolly Special to the News,

    26 days ago

    The second in a series highlighting each of the six private gardens featured on this year’s Mount Airy Blooms Garden Tour scheduled for Saturday, June 8. The tour is presented by Mount Airy’s three garden clubs. Proceeds will benefit a variety of charities. Ticket-holders will have a bonus opportunity to drive through the Healing and Prayer Garden at Northern Hospital of Surry County. Tickets for the Mount Airy Blooms Garden Tour are available at, the Mount Airy Visitors Center and at each garden site on the day of the tour. Advance tickets are $20 while tickets on the day of the tour are $25, cash only. For more information contact

    Miles of white fencing, beautiful green pastures with cows, and stately trees greet visitors to the home of Judy and Lee Mills in the countryside near Red Brush Road. Everything about the lawn and gardens surrounding the house looks perfectly planned, but Judy insists that she simply plants what she likes. The variety of plantings and ornamental antiques flow beautifully to create a peaceful, setting that makes visitors want to stay and drink in the beauty surrounding them.

    The Mills have lived in their home more than 50 years, adding outdoor features over the years. The original patio is gone, replaced by a large covered pavilion with space for an outdoor kitchen and two dining areas, plus seating in front of a beautiful stone fireplace. To one side, a gazebo with seating for four, offers a quiet retreat overlooking the gardens and pasture.

    A koi pond and waterfall flank the fireplace, providing soothing, cascading water sounds, creating the perfect space for relaxing. Since the Mills’ bedroom leads to the patio, Judy says they can hear those calming sounds during the night.

    An assortment of whimsical garden ornaments Judy Mills has collected over the years adorn her garden, adding interest, color and depth to flowering plants. Some of her favorites are sturdy, colorful handcrafted metal flowers which she buys in Blowing Rock. Placed strategically on tables and around plants, they add extra color to the gardens “without another pot of flowers,” Judy points out. Other ornamental items include ceramic frogs, rabbits, birds, old-fashioned watering cans, and turtles, all adding color and interest to Judy’s eclectic gardens. An antique, faded red Radio Flyer wagon is tucked into the landscape in front of a dwarf Japanese maple. An antique child’s bicycle holds mandevilla, while nearby, a bird bath welcomes feathered friends

    A breezeway leading from the driveway to the covered patio invites visitors to sit and relax in a turquoise, “pie-crust” design antique glider, a gift from the Mills’ sons. A matching chair, surrounded by shade-loving plants completes the cozy, shaded sitting area, the perfect place to escape the heat on a bright, summer day.

    Beyond the breezeway, along the walkway leading to the covered patio, Judy has transplanted a purple clematis that originally belonged to her late mother. Judy estimates the clematis is at least 20 years old. Variegated, purple petunias in a pot at the base of the clematis carry out the monochromatic purple theme.

    Judy not only plants flowers in the ground, but she places numerous pots of all sizes containing annuals and green plants throughout the patio, front porch, breezeway and garage area. Flowering plants include geraniums, begonia, hydrangea, gardenia, lantana, petunias, and mandevilla, all against a backdrop of ferns, red, dwarf Japanese Maples and, of course, the water features.

    Judy has a knack for mixing a variety of plants in interesting pots, creating appealing and unusual arrangements. For example, in front of her garage doors she has planted red, mounding mandevilla in combination with Boston swordferns in tall, green planters to create a stunning welcome to the back gardens.

    Further out in the yard a variety of oaks, maples, crepe myrtles and dogwoods provide shade on a warm day. Judy reminisces about the many birthday parties her family held under those trees before the covered patio was built. A wooden, child’s playset and a playhouse in the backyard are also reminders of the many happy hours the grandchildren, now grown, spent playing in the backyard.

    Visitors to the Mills home will find a welcome full of color, beauty and serenity as they tour the gardens and enjoy the long-range countryside vistas.

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