Henry Gainey stretches his green thumb in East Macon Garden Oasis
By Traci Burns
Photography by Jave Bjorkman
Henry Gainey has been gardening for as long as he can remember. He grew up on Shurling Drive watching his mother work in the yard, and it wasn’t long before he joined her to get his own hands dirty.
“My mama loves flowers, she got a green thumb, and I’d always be out in the yard with her planting flowers – I got a green thumb, too,” he said.
The lush, spectacular tapestry of color bursting forth from the front yard of the house he shares with his sister-in-law in East Macon is a visual testament to his gift. He calls the bloom-festooned front yard the “flowerbed,” preferring the term “garden” for the vegetables he’s planted out back.
“Anybody can garden,” Henry said. “You just get out and try it yourself. Dig holes, cover ‘em up, water.”
It also takes time, patience, practice and skill. Although humble at 74, Henry knows his worth.
“My customers like my work,” he said with a smile. “They say anytime I touch something, it lives.”
In addition to maintaining his gardens at home, Henry makes a living working in some of Macon’s most distinguished yards. His customers rave about his natural-born talents; they trust his vision, admire his aptitude, and say he does his best work when left alone.
“He sees things I don’t see,” said one happy client.
Henry came up with his own system to shape the bushes in his front yard. It involves clothes hangers and is remarkably innovative, but to Henry it’s just a practical way to get his desired results. His flowerbed is gorgeous, eye-catching, filled with morning glories, dianthus, rose bushes and snapdragons. His neighbor lets him use some land out back for the vegetable garden. He’s got collard greens, onions and potatoes in the ground already, and soon will add peas, snap beans, okra and tomatoes. He tried sweet potatoes last year but they didn’t do too well, so he’s skipping them this year.
Why does Henry feel compelled to do this work? The answer is simple to him: “I do it because I like it. I like to take something and make it grow.”
That clarity of vision and purpose is inspiring, something we could all take a lesson from. With his natural-born talents, Henry has transformed his little corner of East Macon into an oasis of verdant joy.