Text: Karen Carroll
Southern Home (SH): To begin, we’d love to hear one of your early memories of being in the garden.
Mario Nievera (MN): I was born in Chicago suburb and had a childhood pal whose parents came from France. They had this perfect Colonial house, which I’m sure if I saw it today, it would probably be on a ¼-acre lot. It was really charming, and the backyard was almost storybook—a mess in a beautiful way. I’ll never forget sitting underneath the trees in their overgrown yard, where her mom would serve us sandwiches on pretty plates. It was like being in a secret garden, and when you’re little, you think everything is huge. It just so happens that I now love France. Everything goes back to childhood in a second, doesn’t it?
Keith Williams (KW: My mother was an expert gardener. I don’t remember her gardens as much as she always wanted to put me to work in them, whether it was mowing the grass, trimming the hedges, or cleaning up. But I recall going to nurseries with her and visiting these huge greenhouses (like Mario says, everything seems overscale when you’re young), with the smell of damp plants and flowers and the feeling of heat from glass panels that would open. The size…