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Special garden in Winston-Salem is tribute to Copey Hanes

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Because the location of the Copey Hanes Garden in Arbor Acres is open and exposed to bright sun, landscape architect John Newman filled it with drought-resistant plants and stonework inspired by a desert environment. (David Rolfe/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Of all the things that a garden serves, memory is the most indelible, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

In Winston Salem, the memory of Helen Copenhaver (Copey) Hanes, is everywhere. Well known as a patron of the arts, Copey Hanes played an instrumental role in the support and development of UNC School of the Arts, Old Salem Museums & Gardens, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston Salem Symphony, Moravian Music Foundation, Salem Academy and College and many other arts and civic associations.

A longtime resident of Arbor Acres, Hanes was memorialized on Mother’s Day with the dedication of a garden at Arbor Acres.

“She was a gracious, genteel, elegant woman — yet earthy, funny and real,” said David Piner, the director at Arbor Acres. “She had an old-world grace that was tempered with an insightful and sometimes biting wit. In spite of her wealth and privilege, she was earthy and viewed Arbor Acres as an egalitarian community where her money meant a chance for service.”

It was in this spirit that the dedication displayed at the garden entrance was composed: “Philanthropist, lover of the arts, resident of Arbor Acres, beloved friend, a soaring spirit firmly grounded.”

“She was paradoxical in that way,” Piner said. “A soaring spirit yet so real, so untouched by any sort of arrogance. She was beautiful.”

The garden centers on a tall, kinetic sculpture created by Mike Roig. Titled “Cloud Lasso,” it embodies the elements of the garden and the essence of Hanes’ character. The sculpture is composed of three rotating steel circles that move with the wind. It is perched on a tall pedestal. The garden, which houses the sculpture in its center, is also a circle and is intersected by three other circles, each on the point of a triangle. The circles are formed of embedded, aggregate pebbles and surrounded by upright cut stone formed into rectangular blocks. Within each there is a garden.

The garden was a collaborative effort with Roig creating the sculpture, Larmore Landscaping creating the circle footprint, Fletcher Brothers Concrete working on securing stone beds and John Newman Landscape Design creating the planting design, mosaic work and installation.

Many of Newman’s signature elements are featured in the design. The center circle supporting the sculpture has a pebble mosaic by Ian Byers and John Long of Newman’s landscaping team. It is meant to represent a Japanese cloud motif and the black stones are accentuated by sparks of red, blue and green glass pebbles meant to represent rainbows.

Newman said that the modern garden design was a challenge to the typical Asian approach he takes to garden design.

“The challenge was in trying to integrate formality and naturalism into the modern design,” Newman said. “We are more about curves than circles whereas this design is much about the distinct intersection of forms.”

Additionally, it’s a difficult area to plant because of the direct exposure and the ability of visitors to view it on all sides.

In direct sun and surrounded with hardscape, it required plants that can thrive in hot, harsh conditions. As a result, Newman selected sedums, thyme and yucca as well as dianthus, junipers and ice plants to sustain the xeric conditions.

“Everyone I talked to about Copey always mentioned her silver hair and bright-red lipstick,” Newman said. “That’s why we planted the silvery dragon eye pine and the bright red flowering dianthus.”

Newman’s team managed to bring together the sensibilities that they convey in all their designs: an intimate respect for the subtleties of nature and a sense of fluidity and continuity.

Roig, who works out of Carrboro, said that Piner fell in love with a sculpture he had done called “Beautiful World.” Piner brought a committee from Arbor Acres to view the sculpture but they ultimately decided on “Cloud Lasso.”

Roig is best known for his kinetic sculptures that are featured in public spaces throughout the state and in Knoxville, Tenn., Kansas City and Syracuse, N.Y. He has sculptures at the North Carolina Zoo, UNC Chapel Hill and Sandhills Community College.

“At the time of its creation, I was interested in working on large looping shapes that had an interesting way of framing the sky,” Roig said. “It was one of a series of four or five companion pieces created in about 2006.”

The combined efforts of all these artists in their respective fields have created a fitting tribute to a much loved and fondly remembered figure in our community.

Residents of Arbor Acres have a beautiful spot to reflect on the spirit of Copey Hanes.

If you have a gardening question or story idea, write to David Bare in care of Features, Winston-Salem Journal, P.O. Box 3159, Winston-Salem, NC 27101-3159 or send an email to his attention to