A stained glass sculpture the Whaleys discovered in North Carolina overlooks Jean’s Garden at Dream Meadows in Greene County, Missouri. (Photo by Susan Atteberry Smith)

To read this story, please sign in with your email address and password.

You've read all your free stories this month. Subscribe now and unlock unlimited access to our stories, exclusive subscriber content, additional newsletters, invitations to special events, and more.


People sipping on drinks and strolling the winding, grassy paths, stopping to admire the flowers as well as the work of the artists they meet – then purchasing some of their work.

That’s what Jean Whaley envisioned when she and her husband, Terry, hosted the first Art in the Garden tour in 2023 on their 10-acre property near Willard. And that’s what they hoped to see again this weekend.

“It’s had a cool vibe,” Jean said of the two-day event. “People that come out here are down to earth.

“Artsy people and people who appreciate the outdoors and nature — that’s what we’ve got going on here,” she added.

This year, 15 artists — including Jean, a potter, and Terry, a photographer — will exhibit jewelry, paintings, pottery, prints, repurposed garments, sculptures, weavings, and linocuts and woodcuts around the main garden in front of the Whaleys’ house. Some of them are seasoned artists who’ve already had exhibitions, while others are just beginning to show their work, Jean said.

Jean and Terry Whaley named their shade garden at Dream Meadows the Merlot Garden. (Photo by Susan Atteberry Smith)

Want to go?

Where: Dream Meadow–or Meadows–Gardens. From the I-44 and Kansas Expressway intersection in Springfield, take Missouri Highway 13 north toward Bolivar, then drive about four miles and turn west on State Highway O. You’ll drive about a mile, then turn south on Farm Road 129. The gardens are seven-tenths of a mile from the intersection on the left at 5756 N. Farm Road 129.

When: Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, from 1-6 p.m. Admission is free.

The vibe may be casual, but planning the tour keeps the couple busy for months. This week, Jean was up early to fire more pottery and plant more flowers, while Terry weeded beds in what they call either Dream Meadow or Dream Meadows Gardens — depending on which Whaley is talking about it.

“I call it ‘Dream Meadow Gardens' and Terry calls it ‘Dream Meadows,'” Jean explained, chuckling.

Whatever their name, the gardens the Whaleys have planted and tended over the past two decades — for half of the 42 years they’ve been married — have been labors of love.

“The garden is a huge part of the event,” Jean said. “Actually, in my mind, it is the main event of the wingding.”

Dreams of fresh dirt and blooming flowers

“Corona Pop,” a scrap metal sculpture Terry Whaley welded during the COVID-19 pandemic, adorns the Hillside Garden at Dream Meadows. (Photo by Susan Atteberry Smith)

Dream Meadow was the name the Whaleys’ daughter, Tera, now a 39-year-old physical therapy assistant in Florida, gave their new home sometime in the mid-1990s, back when she was a young girl who couldn’t wait to ride her horse in the field beyond their new home.

The show name for her horse, Flicka, was “My Dream Come True,” Jean explained.

“She made that show name up and then wanted ‘dream' in the name of the property,” Jean said.

Then, there were no gardens, only fields and woods around the house and outbuildings, Jean added. There wasn’t much time for gardening, either, between Tera’s horse shows and the couple’s careers: Jean was a special education teacher at Pershing Middle School, and Terry had just started a new job as executive director of Ozark Greenways.

Nevertheless, with Jean dreaming of flowers just as her daughter dreamed of horses, the Whaleys were soon shoveling up dirt in front of their earth-sheltered house. Terry lugged large rocks found around their property to build borders for the beds in that first garden – the one they would both name Jean’s Garden.

So their roles in the gardens were established, too: “She’s the plant gal, I’m the hardscaper,” Terry said.

Beer garden? No, a Merlot garden

A swing beckons at the end of Jean’s Garden. (Photo by Susan Atteberry Smith)

Now with seven beds, Jean’s Garden is the centerpiece of Art in the Garden. It’s where artists will exhibit their work and mingle with visitors this weekend, all against a backdrop of flowers.

In early May, pink peonies and irises with purple, lavender and pale yellow blooms were in their glory; by this week, the irises were fading — they bloomed early this year, Jean noted — even as flowers like blue pincushion, golden yellow coreopsis and pink and yellow yarrow began to blossom.

Jean’s Garden is one of five large gardens surrounding the Whaleys’ home. Each has its own name, and Jean and Terry agree on most of them.

For example, they both decided against naming the dog pen they transformed into a lush shade garden “the Beer Garden,” even though a pleasant afternoon might find them enjoying a beverage there.

Beer wasn’t what they were enjoying at the time, though.

“We were just getting into the merlot kind of wine and said, ‘Well, everyone has a beer garden. Let’s have a merlot garden,’” Jean said.

So “Merlot Garden” it is. Now, an antique wrought iron gate opens onto a path leading to a towering fountain and beds of begonias, bleeding hearts, dame’s rocket, daylilies, ferns, hostas, hydrangeas and irises.

Hillside Garden tells a love story

Terry Whaley used a chainsaw to carve a piece of dead cedar to look like a rock cairn commonly found along Missouri rivers and streams. (Photo by Susan Atteberry Smith)

Across the driveway in the Hillside Garden, a waterfall splashes down a slope next to their house. It’s filled with plants, rocks, sculptures and the reclaimed objects the Whaleys love, yet it once was full of nothing but grass and weeds, Terry said.

Then, when Jean was away one weekend, he built a wall with 20 stones to mark their 20th anniversary: Terry, who grew up in Lockwood, and Jean, who grew up in Florissant, met as students at then-Southwest Missouri State University in the late 1970s.

Both 66, the two have shared many interests over the years, especially a love for the outdoors. This spring, Terry added to the Hillside Garden a “cairn” he carved from a dead cedar. With gravel around it and a paddle leaning against it, it makes the Whaleys think of the many float trips they’ve taken and the stacks of rocks paddlers sometimes leave along riverbanks.

“That’s my first attempt at chainsaw carving,” Terry said. “I love splitting cedar — it’s just so fun.”

Against a wall plaque made from ceramic tiles once seen in J. Parrino's downtown Springfield restaurant, that garden also features a metal sculpture of a bicycle by Strafford artist Joe Malesky — one of Terry’s favorites, he said.

Symbolizing the Whaleys’ love of cycling, it fits the playful theme there. A moonshine jug is lodged next to the waterfall. A colorful, gawky bird sculpture Terry welded from scrap metal during the COVID-19 pandemic perches above it: The wings of “Corona Pop” are old saw blades, he said.

Save, salvage and upcycle

A rustic stone arch leads to The Ruins garden at Dream Meadows. (Photo by Susan Atteberry Smith)

The Whaleys’ sense of humor also pops up in The Ruins garden, where the focal point is a rustic arch Terry cobbled together out of more stones from their property. Jean has stashed bits and pieces of pottery cast-offs in the walls he built there.

“My crap-assed pottery goes here,” she said.

And at the Whaleys’ Hipcamp site — on the fields where Tera once rode Flicka — colorful wine and gin bottles, with help from grapevines, screen an outdoor shower and a once-discarded bathtub.

“The theme here is salvage,” Terry said. “Repurpose, upcycle. I don’t like to throw anything away.”

“He’s the king of salvage,” Jean agreed.

For the love of flowers and clay

Other artists’ work also claims permanent residence in the gardens: A stained glass sculpture by Veronica and David Bennett the Whaleys discovered on a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, stands at the north entrance to Jean’s Garden, for example.

Jean’s own works also turn up, visual metaphors for passions for flowers and art that can exist side by side. For as long as she can remember, she has loved them both.

In 2016, after retiring as an art teacher at Pershing from a 32-year career in education, Jean finally had the time to get serious about pottery. 

Jean's plate, an art piece at Dream Meadows. (Photo by Susan Atteberry Smith)

One of the first things she did was host “clay parties,” where a few friends got together to create simple pieces, share food and drink, and “cut loose,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the parties, but not Jean’s own work — that is, until her kiln “was getting kind of persnickety,” she said. “It would work only intermittently.”

Kilns are expensive, Jean explained. The one she needed for firing larger pieces, like decorative birdbaths, cost thousands of dollars.

That’s when she came up with the idea of a garden tour where she could also sell her pottery to help pay for a new kiln. Three years ago, the first event was called Pottery in the Garden.

Learning from that experience, Jean said, she invited eight artists to join her last year for the first Art in the Garden tour – and with proceeds from sales of her work and Hipcamp rentals, Jean was finally able to buy the new kiln.

Labors of love at Dream Meadows

Even now, Dream Meadow — or Meadows — remains a work in progress. An English garden is under cultivation, even as the Whaleys let native daisies roam where they will.

They aren’t going for a cultivated look, though, Jean said, adding.

“Weeds are just as beautiful as peonies and irises,” Jean says.

Hundreds of wine and gin bottles and a growing grapevine will help shield an outdoor tub and shower during the Hipcamp season at the Whaleys' Dream Meadors garden in 2024. (Photo by Susan Atteberry Smith)

Terry shares his wife's vision. Retired since 2017 after 22 years of working to develop the area's Greenways trail system, he's happy to see Jean’s dreams coming true, too.

“She’s the main thing now,” he said.

For her part, Jean said of Terry, “He’s more creative than I am.”

Mutual admiration aside, this is the time of year when Jean keeps her husband busy with chores.

Terry joked in a Dream Meadows Facebook post this week that the gardening tools leaning against a weathered Adirondack chair in a photograph “have staged a sit-in. Their demands seem to be reasonable, shorter work days and weekends off. The rake division was getting a bit uppity and pushing for winters in a warmer environment. Along with this delay the mower is exercising some quiet quitting strategies. He was a bad hire anyway, if not back on the job by tomorrow he will be replaced.”

Known for their hospitality as well as their humor, though, the gardens' human workers looked forward to a weekend of showcasing artists' work — and showing off their labors of love.

“We love our place,” Jean said. “It’s quirky.

“We’ve got stuff going on here.”

Susan Atteberry Smith

Susan Atteberry Smith is a Dallas County native, a former college writing instructor and a former Springfield News-Leader reporter. Smith writes freelance pieces for several publications, including Missouri Life Magazine, Biz 417 and Missouri State University alumni publications. More by Susan Atteberry Smith