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Terri Springs: Life is a Garden, Grow with it

As a child, Terri learned about symmetry, color, and texture from her father. She explained, “He had a mindset for designing beautiful things; he was an artist in many ways.” She was the one outside with him creating and keeping up with the yard. She always dreamed of having a garden as beautiful as the one she had as a child in Columbia. After she moved to the Grand Strand as a teenager and graduated from Myrtle Beach High School, she had a fabulous ride of long-term passionate careers which took her to many locations.

She officially moved back to the beach in 1991 and has been here ever since. Because of her split time between Columbia and the beach, she knew many folks, one of them being Mr. John Rhodes, who later served as the Mayor of Myrtle Beach for twelve years. When Terri and her mother would eat at the Dunes Club, she would see John teeing off for golf and they would always say hello in passing. It was not until the grand opening of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center that John had a full conversation with Terri. He was the Chairman of the Expansion Committee, and she was covering the opening for the 97.7 radio station. That was the moment John realized Terri had returned to the Grand Strand for good, and that day was the beginning of his pursuit for her.

Terri laughed, “He kept showing up ‘accidentally’ on purpose. After a few months of a lovely courtship, I finally let him take me out and after that first date, that was it. We had so much in common, he made me laugh, and he was truly a joy to be around. We would stay up like we were in high school for hours talking on the phone. He was just infectious!”

After sixteen years of dating, eleven years of marriage, and retiring from another extraordinary career, Terri finally decided to cultivate the garden she always dreamt about. Sonny Parish, a co-owner of Coastal Landscape Group, came to her rescue. Sonny helped Terri create her garden and took her to his wholesaler to pick out all of the plants she wanted to incorporate. He questioned the amount and asked her where in the world she was going to put them all. Once she explained her vision to him, he was highly impressed. She showed Sonny that “just as you have rooms in your house, you should have rooms outside of your house – a garden is just an extension of your home.”

Sonny would bring clients over to view Terri’s yard because it was like walking through a nursery. One customer asked if Terri could come over to see their yard as well and give them recommendations. Once Sonny listened to her advise them on how to layer and transform their yard, he finally asked, “Terri, why don’t you come work for me and design gardens for my company?” She was ecstatic and John was too, maybe even more than her. John would tell everyone: “My wife is 65, a Medicare cardholder, and just found another career she loves.” He thought it was wonderful that at this later stage in life, Terri had yet again found a new path doing something she loved.

Terri’s garden became a laboratory. For her, a garden is never complete – it is a fun, ever-changing experiment, like life. Terri explained, “Don’t ever think that putting something in the wrong place is the end, because there is always a shovel and always another plant. Gardens are always evolving, just like my recipes… I like to cook as much as I like to garden. I love to share food and plants with friends, neighbors, and those not feeling well. I think it’s important to share, and even when you don’t think you have anything to share, just sharing a smile with someone may be all they need that day.” Terri loves to share her ideas with her clients that end with them saying, “Wow! We had a yard, but now we have a garden.”

As far as some tips for producing a phenomenal garden, Terri most definitely has unique taste, style, and ideas. She believes that putting fragrant flowers near the doorways of a home is delightful because you always get a sweet whiff as you are coming and going. She uses several pots to add texture and another dimension that can either be a focal point or elevate a certain plant. She enjoys using Sunshine Ligustrum and other pops of color as well as using white because of how the garden glows under a bright, full moon. She is dynamic when it comes to her client’s gardens depending on if they want a formal or Charleston garden, but her personal favorite is a low country garden which she describes as a combination of southern plants such as Azaleas and Camellias and tropical plants such as varying types of palms. She also believes that plants are people too: “It’s a living thing. They have faces which means they have a front and need to be facing a certain direction when planted. They have life, personality, and need the right environment. They need to be nurtured just as humans do.”

John was by far the best nurturer for Terri – He was truly her best bud and biggest cheerleader. John would show everyone her yard (and that was what he always called it, “her” yard.) The city of Myrtle Beach gives an award for the best garden in town every year and because of how unbelievably proud he was, John made sure that the next time they were judging, they came by to look at her garden as well. In 2020, their home address was listed as the winner of the Most Outstanding Residential Landscape Design and Tree Preservation. The award winner receives a plaque that traditionally reads the Mr. and Mrs. names followed by the address. The plaque took a year to arrive but when it did, John had already passed in 2021. They informed her that John had previously called and asked if the plaque awarded to Terri could list her name first because it was HER yard. They obliged and receiving that plaque after John passed was the sweetest last gift she could have received from him.

“He always supported me, the same way I supported him with his passions. John was always the one behind me saying ‘go for it.’ In fact, he encouraged everyone around him to always ‘go for it.’ He was a visionary, and what he did for the City of Myrtle Beach is a good example of that,” Terri Continued, “One of the most monumental visions John brought to life was Savannah’s Playground, a safe place that creates social interaction for children with all abilities through enabling playgrounds and programs designed to meet their special needs. This playground is in honor of Savannah Thompson, a young lady we watched grow up who is a pillar for the community. Out of love comes a lot of good things. I think by supporting each other, the seeds just dropped. I love that I can drive around and see John in so many different beautiful places in this community.”

John was Terri’s favorite garden, and their shared love will continue to nurture her. After John got his wings, people would say to Terri, “I am so sorry for you” and she would reply, “There is nothing to be sorry about because John gave me everything – He was my epic love, my hallmark movie, and I just wish for every person that they have a love that deep, that secure, a true best friend.” John only requested two plants in the garden, Cordyline and red roses, so she keeps those blooming for him just as she continues to bloom brilliantly into another new phase of life.

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