Local Folks: Gordon and Kathy Meggison

Local Folks: Gordon and Kathy Meggison
The Meggisons

Many know Gordon Meggison as artist and owner of Free Hand Studios. Many recognize the international influences in his work that come from his travels to faraway lands throughout Asia and Europe. Many have seen at least one of the paintings from one of his largest projects—murals on walls of 70 Olive Garden restaurants throughout major U.S. cities. Many have admired his paintings of the local region on display at a variety of prominent Jacksonville locales. But who is the man behind the brush?

Gordon Meggison is husband to Kathy, who helps promote his work. They have been San Jose residents for as long as they have been married, over three decades. Out back of their home is the barn that’s set up as an art studio where Gordon teaches classes to children and adults. “It’s a one-room schoolhouse kinda thing,” he said. It sits amid another kind of art that Gordon and Kathy tend to. Gardening.

The Meggisons compost. They save all the cuttings from their salads and drop them in piles in the yard. “I turn them religiously until I get a good, black soil,” Gordon said. That’s when he stops turning for a while. “Whatever pops out of the ground, we let grow.” It might be tomatoes or peppers, melons or squash. Kathy even has kale stalks continuously sprouting from scraps she had added to a pile a while back.

Once it’s obvious what plant has taken prominent root, 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 that he does for fun when he’s not in front of an easel painting on canvas or on a ladder painting a mural.

The Meggisons’ yard has plenty of flowers, too. Neighbors and friends bring cuttings that Kathy finds homes for. “It’s like a jungle back here,” Gordon said. So, when he’s not holding a hoe, he’s wielding a weed whacker “to keep it looking elegant.”

The Meggison’s backyard oasis
The Meggison’s backyard oasis

Kathy raises orchids indoors; they’re not fond of Florida heat. She takes care of bromeliads out back and collects the silver vase variety, which are potted. They have a six-month bloom period that comes once every ten or so years. She has some that are thirty-plus years old. Kathy tends to the ginger plants, too. “They’re so beautiful when they bloom,” she said.

To enhance their gardens, the Meggisons buy unique ornaments to place. Gordon also adds and arranges a potpourri of lava stones, antique bricks, and marble fragments. He has salvaged many discarded pieces before they were hauled off in dumpsters from affluent properties where he had been commissioned to do wall treatments in newly constructed houses. “Recycling is my thing. I’m kind of an old hippie. Nurturing and caring for the earth and not wasting is important to me,” he said.

The Meggison yard is a fun place for Gordon’s young students. When art class is over, they often don’t want to leave with their parents. They’d rather stay and run through the gardens or investigate the various vegetables. Gordon and Kathy appreciate this youthful activity as they do not have any children of their own. “When I was a kid, I had this vision for my own little paradise. That’s what this garden is,” Gordon said.

Students and friends often bring with them random clippings that Gordon incorporates with the rest. “That’s how we get new members of our garden family,” he said. The yard has become a species sanctuary.

Kathy, Gordon, and Tinkerbell Meggison
Kathy, Gordon, and Tinkerbell Meggison

There’s a roof built over the patio with picnic table and seating. So, when everyone else goes home, the Meggison yard is a relaxing refuge for Gordon and Kathy. “It’s meditative and grounding,” Kathy said. Since COVID, they don’t go out a lot. They’d rather be home than anywhere else. Their Jack Russell terrier, Tinkerbell, agrees. She, too, was rescued, just like the plants and stones. Seven years ago, someone threw her away. The Meggisons found her in a nearby yard where she had been barking for an entire day.

During family relaxation time, birds have become another hobby for Gordon and Kathy, particularly in spring and fall when the mosquitos are at bay; the Meggisons do their best to avoid pesticides. They have hung three general feeders and one specifically for hummingbirds. It’s no surprise that they welcome painted buntings in addition to an assortment of others.

It has taken three-and-a-half decades for Gordon and Kathy’s yard to evolve into the eclectic Eden that it is today. The project began with the intentional planting of shrubs for privacy from the view of neighbors. The composting and expansion came over time. “I didn’t sit down with an architect and plan all of this,” Gordon said. His flair for interior design has made its way out-of-doors.

Kathy describes their yard as “Oriental-looking” with exotic plants and trees. From Gordon’s perspective, it’s “tropical.” Passersby, amazed by the living innovation, have said that it’s “European.” The Meggisons’ yard is all of this and more.

By Mary Wanser
Resident Community News

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