The Gardener’s Gardener

Story Shannon Bardwell | Photograph Luisa Porter

At first Martin spent his nights performing fictitious operations on fictitious patients. When you’ve mended broken bones for over 40 years it’s hard to stop, if only in your dreams.

In 2009 orthopedic surgeon Martin Pomphrey retired to his home at Mayhew Junction. The farm was purchased in 1977 with 22 acres of woodland, two lakes and a house built circa 1865 by Captain Tom Burgin. Over the years the home evolved like a beehive, adding rooms, hallways, entrances, modernizing baths, and eventually building a new barn and a wood working shop.

“At first Martin was depressed about his retirement. He became a real pain in the neck,” explained Martin’s wife, Sue.

As one intimately familiar with anatomy, Martin replied, “I think the pain was much lower than the neck.”

The two chuckled; one hardly finished a conversation without the other adding to the story, a trait of couples that have lived long together.

Sue was the gardener; Martin was not. After a few stints filling in for orthopedic surgeons in Maine, Montana and Tennessee, Martin threw himself into gardening with a vengeance.

“I really overdid it. I couldn’t possibly take care of all this myself so I hired an assistant,” he said.

Together they have created woodland trails, built 21 raised beds, pruned a swampish lake filled with cypress trees, and designed multiple “sitting places.”

Beside the shed that houses an old “doctor’s buggy,” one that Martin intends to restore, is a gargantuan bois d’arc tree. The tree was felled by straight-line winds that caused the loss of a hundred trees. Unsure how to handle the large tree, Martin left it, and to his surprise, green leaves sprouted and delicate ferns appeared on its massive limbs.

In his usual form, Martin created a sitting place with two red stadium chairs salvaged from the Old Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. Martin explained, “Sue was a Cardinals fan. We were dating when I took her to see the great Stan Musial play his last game in St. Louis.”

The couple sits in the stadium seats encompassed by the bois d’arc’s massive arms while watching birds and squirrels frolic in their natural habitat. Martin complemented the setting with blue irises.

Behind the house the garden’s winter crops included broccoli, kale, arugula, cauliflower and turnips. Martin constructed protective hoops to cover the produce. Several beds were covered with nitrogen-rich red clover.

Spring planting plans include five types of beans, peas, corn, asparagus, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes, also strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.  Martin describes his foray into gardening as an experiment, like the protective hoops he built.

“I’m going to add wheels for easy moving when spring temperatures fluctuate madly,” he said.

As Martin demonstrated the hoops, Sue, standing on the porch, hollered from on high, “Martin, take the hoops off the kale. It’s going to be a warm one.”

Martin gave a sideways glance and grinned, “A good reason for the wheels.”