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How does your garden grow ?

By By Suzanne Digmon staff writer
Wilena Godwin will be 93 years old in a few weeks, but you would never know judging by the appearance of her back yard, which holds a splendidly composed garden filled with a plethora of colorful flora and fauna.
Godwin moved to Atmore during WWII in 1942 from Tupelo, Miss. She became was a high school English teacher at Ernest Ward High School, where she taught for 28 years. "Some of my students grew up, and I taught their kids and their grandkids," Godwin said. Although retired now, she still possesses the passion for teaching and learning that brought her to Atmore so long ago.
In 1956, Godwin bought a house on McRae Street and started her first garden. "I learned from my mother," she said while standing in front of her popcorn tree, surrounded with coleus of every color imaginable. When describing her love for gardening, Godwin said, "It's always fascinating to watch them [the flowers] grow and see what colors they make."
Even some of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Godwin family have taken up gardening as a career or a pastime. "My nephew in Chicago gardens, and of his five sons, three of them garden, too."
Five years ago, Godwin moved from her house on McRae Street to her current residence on Medical Park Drive. The picturesque view of Godwin's back yard is home to all sorts of plants, from a tall, shady Mayhaw tree to rows of collards and tomatoes. "I planted the loquat, pear, maple, peach and fig trees when I moved in," she said. In addition, she planted all her flowers from seeds just once during her first year at this home. Every year they come back on their own; all she does to the plants is add fertilizer and mulch.
There are plenty of birds to help pollinate the collards, cabbage, onions, turnips, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, rutabagas and other blossoms growing in Godwin's yard. "I had three bluebirds in the house on the popcorn tree," she explained. "There are nests of brown thrashers, mockingbirds, cardinals, finches, sparrows, wrens, and doves in the branches of the trees."
Godwin said that when she retired from teaching, one of her nieces in Mississippi asked her when she was coming back home. "I didn't want to leave Atmore. Atmore's a great place to live," she said. Although she lives by herself, she enjoys visiting with her neighbors at The Meadows and with all the other friends she has made over the years.
Godwin shared her wisdom on friendships Tuesday, "What you can add to the lives of others comes back to you later in even greater quantity. That's what makes life worth living."