Many know Gordon Meggison as an artist and owner of Free Hand Studios. Many recognize the international influences in his work that come from his travels to distant lands across Asia and Europe. Many have seen at least one of the paintings from one of his biggest projects – murals on the walls of 70 Olive Garden restaurants in major US cities. Many have admired his paintings of the local area exhibited at various prominent venues in Jacksonville. But who is the man behind the brush?
Gordon Meggison is Kathy’s husband, who helps promote her work. They have resided in San Jose since they were married, for more than three decades. At the back of their house is the barn converted into an art studio where Gordon teaches children and adults. “It’s kind of a one-room school,” he says. It sits in the middle of another kind of art that Gordon and Kathy tend to. Gardening.
The Meggisons Compost. They save all the cuttings for their salads and put them in a pile in the yard. “I process them religiously until I get a good black earth,” Gordon said. That’s when it stops spinning for a while. “Everything that comes out of the ground, we let it grow.” It can be tomatoes or peppers, melons or squash. Kathy even has kale stalks continually sprouting from scraps she added to a pile a while ago.
Once it is evident that the plant has taken root prominently, Gordon transports any excess rich soil to other areas of the yard to fertilize a variety of different plants already growing. “It’s a weird garden because I’m not a farmer. I don’t really know what I’m doing,” he said. It’s a hobby he does for fun when he’s not at an easel painting on canvas or on a ladder painting a mural.
The Meggison garden is also very flowery. Neighbors and friends bring cuttings for which Kathy finds homes. “It’s like a jungle here,” Gordon said. So when he’s not holding a hoe, he wields a weeder “to keep it sleek.”
Kathy keeps orchids indoors; they don’t like the Florida heat. She takes care of the bromeliads at the back and collects the variety of silver vases, which are potted. They have a six-month flowering period that comes around once every ten years. She has some who are over thirty years old. Kathy also takes care of the ginger plants. “They are so beautiful when they bloom,” she says.
To beautify their gardens, the Meggisons buy unique ornaments to place. Gordon also adds and arranges a potpourri of lava rocks, ancient bricks and marble shards. He salvaged many abandoned rooms before they were hauled away in dumpsters from wealthy estates where he had been tasked with doing wall treatments in newly built homes. “Recycling is my thing. I’m kind of an old hippie. Feeding and caring for the land and not wasting is important to me,” he said.
Meggison Yard is a fun place for young Gordon students. When art classes are over, they often don’t want to go with their parents. They prefer to stay and run in the gardens or explore the different vegetables. Gordon and Kathy enjoy this childhood activity because they have no children of their own. “When I was a kid, I had this vision of my own little paradise. That’s what this garden is,” Gordon said.
Students and friends often bring random clippings with them, which Gordon incorporates with the rest. “That’s how we get new members into our backyard family,” he said. The courtyard has become a species sanctuary.
There is a roof built over the patio with a picnic table and seating. So when everyone comes home, Meggison Yard is a relaxing haven for Gordon and Kathy. “It’s meditative and grounded,” Kathy said. Since COVID, they don’t go out much anymore. They would rather be at home than anywhere else. Their Jack Russell terrier, Tinkerbell, agrees. She too was saved, as were the plants and stones. Seven years ago, someone threw it away. The Meggisons found her in a nearby yard where she had been barking for an entire day.
During family downtime, birds have become another pastime for Gordon and Kathy, especially in the spring and fall when mosquitoes are at bay. the Meggisons do their best to avoid pesticides. They hung three general feeders and one specifically for hummingbirds. It’s no surprise that they host painted buntings in addition to an assortment of others.
It took three and a half decades for Gordon and Kathy’s garden to evolve into the eclectic Eden it is today. The project began with the intentional planting of shrubs for privacy from neighbors. Composting and expansion came with time. “I didn’t sit down with an architect to plan all of this,” Gordon said. His flair for interior design has made its way outside.
Kathy describes their yard as “oriental” with exotic plants and trees. From Gordon’s point of view, it is “tropical”. Passers-by, marveling at the lively innovation, said it was “European”. The Meggisons Courtyard is all of this and more.
By Mary Wander
Resident Community News