Gardening — whether for aesthetics, for vegetables or for medicinals — goes back thousands of years. This year, in the time of the coronavirus, gardening has seen a resurgence, offering a healthy dose of beauty, produce as well as therapy.
People have lots of time on their hands — and since spring, more than a little dusting of dirt.
Today’s Weelunk post offers a virtual tour of a few gardens around the Ohio Valley.
Every year, Anne Foreman — artist and gardener extraordinaire — buys a pair of garden gloves. But she never uses them. She loves the feel of dirt on her hands as she tends to her secret backyard garden in the Woodsdale neighborhood of Wheeling.
“You have to feel how clumpy the earth is, how much you have to offset it with sand or organic material. I can’t get the feel I want with garden gloves,” Anne said.
Gardening for her is “a time when I can meditate, be by myself. It’s a peaceful part of my day and I enjoy it.”
In the last six years, she has transformed her yard — which was just grass and a garage when the family moved in decades ago — into a special place filled with visual delights.
A peek over the fence offers a spectacular sight — a weathered bench, miniature birdhouses, a rusty rooster, wicker baskets overflowing with flowers, an apple tree surrounded by cobblestones and adorned with antique kitchen utensils, and two claw foot bathtubs full of annuals.
Her backyard is exquisite in its wash of colorful blooms and creative décor that offer proof of her artistic talents. “I like to have surprises in every corner.”
FROM TUSCAN DINING TO A ZEN GARDEN TO A GNOME HOUSE
Everywhere you look at Susan and Bill Hogan’s one-acre plot of land, there is beauty.
Sculptures of peacocks, a puddle pond for two small frogs, a Koi pond with a 12-year-old golden inhabitant, a bridge reminiscent of a Monet painting, a Mickey Mouse fairy garden … it’s all magical, as far as the eye can see.
Growing up on Echo Terrace, Susan learned about gardening by helping her mom and dad in their rock gardens and with their houseplants. When she and Bill moved to their W.Va. 88 home, she had her first “empty canvas — a garden full of magnificent trees, a lot of lawn and a funky pony shed. It has become our Valhalla, our sacred space.”
Jay Frey and Michael Hires live at the foot of Howard Hill in the Pleasanton neighborhood of Wheeling. Jay notes that they spend a great deal of time on their terrace, which overlooks the garden.
“It’s a small space, and there are a number of mature boxwoods that limit what we can plant,” Jay said. A couple of years ago, they removed some pine trees, replacing them with oak leaf ruby slipper hydrangea, with beautiful blossoms that start out white, turn cream and then pink to red from late summer to fall.
“We wanted color; we got it,” he said. “The year we moved into our place, we planted forever summer hydrangea, which were pink. In spite of my fertilizing them with lime in early spring, we get blossoms that range from pink to blue and purple. Michael calls them ‘Franken-drangea,’” Jay said.
They also have some David Austin English roses, a climber called Woolerton Old Hall and a shrub named for Gertrude Jekyll, the famous English horticulturalist and garden designer. “Their colors — pale apricot and pink — complement our magenta-colored buddleja (butterfly bush),” Jay noted. They’ve also placed a granite urn topped by an armillary to provide some sculptural visual interest to their boxwood hedge.
HOW DOES MARY’S GARDEN GROW?
Mary and Steve Suhler relocated to Wheeling’s Edgewood/Woodsdale neighborhood from the west coast to be close to her daughter’s family — and “two wonderful granddaughters,” Mary said.
“Since I am retired, have the time to spend with them, and pursue my interests in gardening, getting to know the community, biking and volunteer activities. We moved into a 110-year-old home so, needless to say, there is plenty of work to be done refurbishing this old house.”
A hedge and chain-link fence surrounded the yard when they moved in, and the “landscaping” consisted of overgrown bushes, she said. Once all that was removed, “the next step was to plant cardboard, as some neighbors remarked. To discourage the weeds, I placed some moving boxes where the future flowerbeds would be, and covered the cardboard with mushroom manure. By spring, the cardboard had composted, the beds where ready to plant.”
Mary’s garden is a mixture of annuals and perennials. “I enjoy watching the bees and butterflies feast on the flowers, and I am pleased that neighbors also enjoy the flowers.”
“I also enjoy growing vegetables, although the rabbits and deer make that challenging. My husband erected a fence around the raised bed garden. That helped but it had to be fortified as new access points were discovered. The tomatoes, corn and beans are remarkable this year,” she said.
A NICE BLEND
Brianna and Eric Blend of the Blended Homestead have a nice mix of squash, cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic scapes, tomatoes, basil and adorable Minnosota Midget Melons. And sunflowers — lots and lots of sunflowers.
The couple started growing for farmers’ markets in 2017. Eric has attended as many gardening classes as he can, such as the West Virginia University Master Gardeners classes and other beneficial classes that are offered in the area.
“The vast majority of our produce was grown from seed that we nurtured from day one,” he said.
Eric and Brianna raise layer chickens, pasture-raised chickens, pasture-raised pigs, a variety of produce and honey bees. They sell at three local farmers markets — The Highlands Farmers’ Market, the Wheeling Farmers’ Market and the Brooke County Farmers’ Market. Brianna’s sweet breads are popular item at the markets around the area, too. They also sell their farm products at the Public Market in Wheeling.
• Phyllis Sigal spent nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and as design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register. After a little over two and a half years, today, Sept. 2, 2020, is her last day as Weelunk’s managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.