When joy constantly bubbles up from your heart, your inclination is to share it with others.
Susan Watkins of Wimbledon in Arlington wakes up every day believing it is "another day in paradise" and instinctively generates fun for everyone around her. Her one-acre paradise is divided into five theme gardens, each with its own pleasures. Watkins has given tours to kids, Scouts and women's groups, and her walkabouts are a treat.
The Woodland Garden, certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a sanctuary for wildlife, supplies water, food and shelter for a variety of species. "You know you have a good husband when you say, 'Honey, I want to buy a creek,' and he let me!" Watkins said.
A 150-foot creek with arched stone bridges winds through woodland created by a profusion of post oaks underplanted with Japanese maples, dogwoods and Eve's necklace. American beautyberry and oakleaf hydrangeas sprawl among Turk's cap, columbine, and wood ferns. Purple and green groundcovers intermingle, and pink blooms peek out around boulders. A gossamer spider web stretches between rocks above the creek.
"My garden is like the movie with Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams. 'Build it and they will come.' Once I came out here and there's a whole family having a picnic lunch. I said, 'Can I help you?' and they asked, 'Isn't this the neighborhood park?' I said, 'You stay, have fun, and come back anytime!'"
A gazebo has hosted three weddings and a renewal of vows. A path dubbed "Lover's Lane" connects the gazebo to the English Garden. "This garden is all about hearts. It's for lovers," Watkins said. Thus, the garden's dominant plant is the redbud with its heart-shaped leaves.
"A local preacher knocked on my door and said his son wanted to get engaged. 'Could my son come and get on his knee and ask his girlfriend for her hand in marriage in the garden?' he asked. 'Could they have dinner in the gazebo because that would be so romantic?' It was very touching," Watkins said.
This garden is entered through an iron arbor, and a path winds to a heart-shaped patio surrounded by coneflowers, butterfly bush, obedient plant, Queen Anne's lace, salvia, dill and parsley -- all planted to attract another form of beauty, butterflies.
The Lake Garden, the site of family portraits and parties, "is my little San Antonio River Walk," Watkins said. Stone and gravel paths abut the pond edged with cypresses. "I planted cypress trees for my mom and dad when they passed away. I put one in for each of them. Look how big they're getting!"
There's a metal canoe -- "flat-bottomed so you don't tip over" -- lounging by a wooden dock. Several benches, bistro tables and chairs are scattered about. "I really enjoy sitting and watching the dragonflies flutter through here," Watkins said. Tiki torches and a fire-pit glow alluringly when the stars come out.
The Tropical and Secret gardens have been enclosed using privacy fencing made of siding to match the house. Beds and containers brim with palm and banana trees, hibiscus, bamboo, water lilies, elephant ears, oleander, thornless prickly pear and moss rose. A koi pond tucked into rocks attracts lizards. Lucky houseguests will discover that their bedroom opens right into this getaway.
"My theory is, if I had to do all this and I didn't share it, it wouldn't be worth it," Watkins said. "It's on loan to me. I'm taking care of it."