“Get ready to leave the land of Martha Stewart and enter the realm of Conan the Barbarian,” said Dan Krebill as we strolled past his colonial brick home in Chapel Hill and through the gate to his “Uncommon Garden.”
Neither words nor photographs do justice to Dan’s creation. Surprises abound: pictograms from South America and Asia. A gargantuan metal Bansai tree. Waterfalls, caverns, fountains, a pond and decking that snakes among bamboo shoots, Japanese maples, loblolly pines, Concord grapes and a variety of decorative mosses. Then there’s the 70-foot stone dragon that throws flame and steam into the air. I am not making this up.
But Dan is.
The Uncommon Garden is the dream-come-true of a retired Army Colonel whose body is bound to a wheelchair but his spirit unrestrained by the conventional limits of landscaping – or philosophy, geography and religion, for that matter.
After growing up in Iowa and graduating from West Point, Dan lived in Germany, South Korea, Italy, California, and Rhode Island. His varied soldiering and teaching assignments, a range of travel adventures, a sticky memory, an engineer’s brain and a seeker’s curiosity are all evident in his back yard – where Gaudi or Tolkien would be as comfortable as an Audubon Society member or a Buddhist monk.
Among the memories that will stick with me my visit to the Uncommon Garden: Dan’s comments about the need to create our own spaces. “We ought to spin our own myths. We can make whatever we dream up.” That’s loud.