By GWEN SISSON
The bright pink Mandevilla holds a special place in Brenda Carver’s heart.
Carver moved back to her childhood home on Green Street in downtown Starkville to take care of her mother in her final years.
Her mom, Grace Wiygul, loved her yard and spent many hours planting shrubs and flowers. At the point when she was bed-ridden, one of the joys of her day was counting the blooms on the bright pink Mandevilla blooming just outside of her window.
“She would ask if I knew how many blooms the Mandevilla had on it today,” Carver said. “I will always have a Mandeville blooming right there. It keeps a little part of her alive.”
Carver said a boxwood shrub sits in an awkward place beside the driveway, but her mom loved it. Azaleas planted at the front yard are also original to the homeplace.
“My little ole momma dug those holes,” Carver said. “Those plants will stay right where they are. She loved her yard.”
Dotted with fond memories, some of the “yard art” includes her grandmother’s dishpan that now serves as a birdbath and other family treasures that make her landscape an interesting family history lesson.
One of her favorite plants is the moonvine, which has celebrated her birthday each year for the past two years with the same number of blooms.
“It smells great,” Carver said. “This is what heaven must smell like.”
When Carver moved home, she brought an unusual momento from the other house. Her Koi pond is now installed just behind the back porch of her mom’s home. Carver enjoys the sound of the water from the fountain and feeding the beautiful fish.
And all of the stones surrounding the new pond were placed by Carver personally.
“Brenda doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase, ‘it can’t be done,’” said long-time friend and neighbor Emily Jones. “She single-handedly constructed her Koi pond, dragging boulders weighing 75 pounds from the neighborhood hardware store, a few at a time.”
Jones said Carver refinished her front porch, rewires home appliances and runs a business “without missing a beat.”
“She is also a terrific cook and I know what they’re having for dinner because the aromas drift across the street to my house,” Jones said. “I want to be Brenda when I grow up.”
Jones also gave Carver one of the newest plants in the landscape, a Confederate Rose. It is growing a lot larger than Carver anticipated, blocking a favorite plant. But Carver is anxious to see it bloom.
Jones is quick to show off the old shed in Carver’s back yard built by Brenda’s father, Omer “Veo” Wiygul. The shed is lined with old press tiles, and a closer look reveals news stories from Starkville’s past.
Wiygul moved his family to Starkville when Carver was just three months old. He worked as a mechanical engineer at Mississippi State University for 32 years.
A relative built her childhood home and is quick to say her neighborhood was “the” place to raise a family when she was growing up. Despite many changes in the neighborhood, she said it is still a great place for families.
“Everybody knew everybody,” Carver said. “There was a lot going on in this house and on this street.”
Carver said growing up in this neighborhood, all of the children would play on the playground at Overstreet School.
“I played on that playground and it was a time when parents didn’t have to watch you every minute,” Carver said. “Every one in the neighborhood was watching us play from their homes. We felt very protected.”
For Carver, the Overstreet playground is special. It is a place where she and her sister played as child, her son played on that playground, and now her grandchildren are playing on the Overstreet playground.
“That’s priceless,” Carver said. “This is my home. You can go all over the world and come back to Starkville and you love it even more. It is a great place to live.”