Savannah Morning News
March 26, 2017
Jean Carson likes a project. She may not know what it is but she knows it’s out there. For 15 years she’s been remodeling the house she and her husband Robert bought 19 years ago when they relocated to Pooler from central Pennsylvania. They loved their house. So when Hurricane Matthew whooped them bad last September they did what persistent, stubborn people do. They moved their furniture into a pod, lived in one or two rooms that weren’t damaged, started pulling up the sodden floors and waited for their contractor to put it all back together again.
The property was perfect for them. They had woods on both sides and the city’s recreational park behind them. While they waited to rebuild they continued on with their lives. Robert is an orchid aficionado. He’s got close to 700 beauties in his two greenhouses. Jean, a gardener and a receptionist in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital, had an acre and a quarter of land to play with.
“See that pile over there?” she said pointing to a stack of plants. “I got them at the fall plant swap eight days before Matthew. They’re still in their pots. I never got around to planting them.”
Matthew was a whopper of a hurricane, but it was the second storm in January that did it. That’s what made the couple sit up and reevaluate their decision to stay and remodel. After the rains stopped Jean slipped on her wading boots and went outside to examine her plants and Robert’s orchids. That’s when she saw the extent of the damage.
“We knew it didn’t used to flood when we moved in,” she said. “But when the city of Pooler decided to cut down the trees and put in a parking lot that’s when it started. That’s when we could see the retaining ditch they dug wasn’t deep enough. The parking lot they wanted made sense. It opens up to the park. But the concrete slab they put in was higher than our property. We used to drain into them. Now the water has nowhere to go but into our yard and in a really big storm into our house.”
The second big storm arrived in January – two days before the contractor was due to start working on their house. That was it for Jean, who is nothing if not practical.
“No sense in throwing good money after bad,” she said.
The city did right by them. A deal was struck. It bought their cinder block house and property. Not long after, the couple found another home on two-and-a-half acres in Rincon. In a few weeks they’ll move to their new property, along with their submersible pump, a tank less water heater, some of the windows in the house, the collapsible greenhouses, the stack of wood from a bookshelf and the pile of plants she got from the fall plant swap, the plants she never had time to put in the ground.
All that means leaving behind tons of other plants, trees, bulbs and vines Jean planted, babied and watched grow. That’s when she thought about the spring plant swap next Saturday. A three-year veteran of the biannual swap she knows the deal, she knows the people, she knows the drill.
“I really didn’t want to have a giant give-away here so I thought you might want to come out and get them,” she said in an email. “I can’t stand the idea of the bulldozer coming in and destroying them.”
When they bought the house, which sits across from the Pooler wastewater treatment plant, it had two selling points, Jean said – a separate dining room and some big, impressive elephant ears along the back of the house. She’ll be taking a few of those elephant ears, but the rest are on the list of plants she’s anxious to share. She’s got white amaryllis with red pinstripes, sweet shrubs, quince, day lilies, blueberries, red passion vines, lime trees, elderberries, scarlet spider lilies, queens tears, milk weed, cockspur, coral trees, banana trees, daffodils, oregano, snow drops, ferns, mums, gladiola, canna lilies.
“I just want to find good homes for them,” she said.
It all sounds possible – and very generous – as long as my back holds out and the creek don’t rise (again).