The first thing you notice about Betsy Clayton’s house in Dresher are the gardens. Even in the midst of an August heat wave, they’re lush with blooms: golden black-eyed Susans, dancing pink cleomes and purple loosestrife, and a spectacular white tree hydrangea thick with immense cone-shaped flower heads. She does it all herself, though a teenaged grandson helps with some of the harder chores, like pruning.
The garden extends from the front to the back of her house in Philadelphia’s Montgomery County suburbs, where it’s framed by a wall of windows in her family room like an immense mural—a mural she can’t see.
At the age of 30, with eight children, Clayton learned that she was going blind. She has a genetic, early-onset form of macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that leads to the deterioration of the macula, a small, central part of the retina that controls visual sharpness in the center of the eye. She still has some peripheral vision, but the disease has already robbed her sister, Carol Saylor, of most of her sight.