Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

by Henry Lane Hull

Tomorrow is the semisesquicentennial of the birth of one of the Northern Neck’s most gifted horticulturalists—a gardener of extraordinary insight and capability—who combines insight with talent in replicating the Garden of Eden in all of her endeavors.  The reference is to Nancy Constance, whose efforts have enhanced our local landscape in a variety of ways over many years.

Originally from Baltimore County, Md., Nancy first came to Windmill Point in 1967, the year she graduated from Towson State Teachers College, where she later obtained a master’s in education. Since 1984, she has been a permanent fixture here in the lower Northern Neck.  

Nancy is a fountainhead of common sense, always willing to impart the fruits of her wisdom and experience to others. After her years teaching third grade, she began a 13-year sojourn working with the late Barbara Simmons, where she produced a spectacular garden setting in Barbara’s yard in White Stone. In the years since Barbara’s death, she has formed a beautifully serene garden setting at her grave. She takes her work seriously, and she knows how to bring plantings into conformity with an overall garden design. 

Animals are another focus of Nancy’s life. To know an animal, for Nancy, is to have the creature as a personal friend, if not a family member. She has a distinctive manner in treating animals anthropomorphically. They respond willingly, thereby cementing the bond of friendship. Her dog, Lena, gardened with her, and once they completed the task at hand, Lena would enjoy basking in the sunlight of the finished product. 

Lena was a rescue for Nancy. She was part Great Pyrenees and part golden retriever, with the personality of the latter. Lena had the perfect disposition to be a therapy dog, able to bring brightness to those suffering from infirmities simply by being herself.  Nancy liked to take her to visit in the hospital and nursing home to see the results on the faces of those Lena befriended.

Lena was more than a pet. For 13 years, she was Nancy’s alter ego. Upon meeting Nancy, one quickly realizes that for her, every animal is a pet, replete with its own personality that Nancy sees it her duty to bring forth for others to behold, that is, assuming they have been too obtuse to recognize it on their own. As long as Lena lived, and even now, to know Nancy is also to know her dog. 

Nancy also personalizes her vehicles. Her venerable 1970 Pontiac station wagon became “The Train,” taking her all over until she no longer could get parts to keep it on the road. Her car was her trademark, and the older it got, the more distinctive it became driving down the road.

Her sojourn with her car paralleled my own with a 1975 Pontiac station wagon that my parents bought new from Haydon, later Russell, Pontiac here in Kilmarnock. Even though it was older, Nancy’s wagon actually survived mine. To this day, we both miss the old war horses.

In last week’s column, I described the struggle I have been experiencing with an onslaught of chiggers, which unfortunately had decided to populate my garden. Nancy, along with many other kind readers, has offered suggested remedies in the form of medicines she has found helpful, but—fortuitously—the problem already has begun to abate. My thanks to her and all the folks who shared their chigger cures, all of which I am keeping on file for future reference, but I hope not future experience.

Nancy ranks as one of Maryland’s great exports to The Old Dominion. Keep up all your good works, Nancy, and have a Happy Semisesquicentennial!