Moon woman awarded with Pennsylvania honor for garden |

Moon woman awarded with Pennsylvania honor for garden

Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Portrait of Ellen Northy, of Moon, in her vegetable garden on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014.
Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Portrait of Ellen Northy, of Moon, with her Brussels sprouts in her vegetable garden on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014.
Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Brussels sprouts in Ellen Northy's Moon township garden on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014.
Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Beets in Ellen Northy's Moon township garden on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014.

Ellen Northy has been gardening for 27 years, since she and her husband, Bill, moved to Moon.

A native of Arizona, Northy said she loved the vegetation in Western Pennsylvania because to garden in Arizona, “you have to have a greenhouse with a cooler.” Her parents, who grew up in New York and moved to Scottsdale, did.

Northy, 62, started her Moon garden experience with flowers, then moved on to vegetables and realized she’d have to fence them in or risk deer eating everything.

Stonemason Bert Bertolli helped her build a waterfall in her steeply sloping yard, which she had graded in tiers. She learned from him how to build fences and walls with stone, and when Bertolli retired she continued to build more. Northy uses compost instead of chemical fertilizers, a drip system for watering her plants and stone walls and fences to protect plants from voracious deer.

For her efforts, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will award Northy a blue ribbon in its Gardening and Greening Contest for her vegetable garden. Northy will receive her blue ribbon Dec. 8 at the Governor’s Mansion in Harrisburg.

A panel of judges visited Northy’s garden and other nominated gardens in August, and made recommendations for three or four gardens in each of nine categories. A second panel of 10 judges reviewed photographs and comments about the best gardens and decided on the 26 winners.

One other Pittsburgh area suburban garden won a Garden of Distinction Award: the garden at UPMC Passavant Hospital in McCandless. Other winners and honorees were from other areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Sally Gendler, events manager of the horticultural society, said these comments were among those that judges made about Northy’s garden:

• “The most beautiful and interesting vegetable garden I have ever seen.”

• “Walking into Ellen’s garden brought to mind a walled medieval garden in the courtyard of a castle.”

Adding to the medieval atmosphere is Northy’s nearby topiary “dragon” that she made from PVC pipe and chicken wire.

“She can do anything,” said Barbara Karp of Moon, president of Moon Township Garden Club, of which Northy is a member. “Her garden is ever-changing. She’s always doing different things … She’s the go-to person. If you need help, she is always there.”

As for Northy’s award, “We’re just thrilled for her,” Karp said. “Her garden is just amazing.”

Northy attributes her knowledge to her membership in the club.

“I learned from the gardeners there,” she said. “Many of them are very knowledgeable about plants.”

Northy’s vegetable garden is not very large — “I only put in what I eat,” she said – but it has variety.

This past season, Northy grew five or six tomato varieties, green beans, squash, beets, eggplant and arugula. She grew Brussels sprouts and asparagus, the latter a perennial. She has a section for herbs including parsley, basil, thyme, chives, oregano and lovage, a relative of celery.

“It takes a while for things to grow,” said Northy, mother of four grown children. “Then everything comes in at once.”

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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