Donell and Frances Davis stand next to one of their manicured topiaries. Don Davis spends nearly every morning out in his yard perfecting it, he says.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Each morning, Donnell Davis -- Don, according to his shimmering gold belt buckle -- rises with the sun to continue his long-running love affair with nature.
"I've just always loved to get out in the yard and grow things," Davis said.
For Davis, his yard is his sanctuary. It's his outer sanctum and, now that his children are grown and moved out of the house, it's his pride and joy. The Daffodil Garden Club, which chooses a showplace yard each month in Albany, has named Davis' residence its Yard of the Month for June.
"I know better than to go out there," his wife, Frances, who has been by his side for decades, says. "I let him have the yard, and he lets me have the inside of the house. It's worked out to be a good compromise."
Each morning, Don Davis fires up his lawn tractor, hooks up his trailer filled with lawn implements and rides out to some random area of the yard that he feels "just ain't quite right."
"That's the thing about gardening and working out in the yard -- as long as something is living and growing, there's always something you can be doing," he said.
And it's in his yard that the former store owner finds a release for his creativity.
In his front yard, near a bend in the driveway and not far from his front door, stands a beautiful shrub that he has carefully whittled, trimmed and snipped into what can only be described as a symmetrical piece of growing art.
"When it comes to the shrubs and stuff, I just do what I like," Davis said. "I'll do a snip here and a cut there, and sometimes I'll do a shape or something specific."
In his backyard, he's trimmed two shrubs: one into his Easter basket, complete with a handle and recessed interior basket, the other into a rather comfy-looking chair.
Other topiaries are in the works.
But despite his giant pair of green thumbs, Davis faces some challenges in keeping his Shangri-La looking its best.
"Well, it's expensive," he said. "Between the gas and the maintenance on the equipment, and the chemicals, the chemicals are awful. ... We have a disease that's got a hold of some of the shrubs and trees, and the chemical I found that will save them is very costly."
And, as with many folks, age and health are becoming issues. But for now, Davis still manages to do a little something to his yard every day.
"There's peace out here," he said. "I can't really explain it, but if I wasn't doing this ... I don't think I could ever just sit around and waste away. So this is a pretty good place to be."