Westmoreland garden tours in bloom
The Greenridge Garden Club is inviting those with an eye for beauty to venture ‘Beyond the Garden Gate’ for the group’s first-ever garden tour.
The event, featuring nine gardens in Irwin, Herminie and North Huntington Township, will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Doris Carlson, publicity chairwoman for the garden club, said members spent three months touring area neighborhoods in search of outstanding gardens.
‘The big thing this year is water gardening,’ Carlson said, adding that garden ponds and waterfalls are a growing trend.
Janet and Bob Bentz of Irwin have incorporated a pond and pool area into their outdoor decor. Complete with a family of toads and ducks, the water setting completes the serene landscape.
Janet Bentz, who spends about 10 hours a week working in her garden, said she’s always changing and moving her plants around. The beauty of her flourishing garden inspires her to plant more.
‘It’s like stress therapy for me,’ she said.
Also displaying a pond in their garden, Alice and David Francisco of Irwin have a landscape filled mostly with perennials. Alice Francisco, who spends on average two evenings a week gardening, said that she prefers perennials because they can be divided easily, and she can give them away to friends and family.
‘Sharing is one of the joys of gardening,’ she said.
K.C. Grapes and Bob Michaud, also of Irwin, have taken a slightly different approach to gardening. Their water garden, at the center of their landscape, is complete with a bog, waterfall and pool. This couple’s pond is a twist on the standard water garden – it’s a natural, self-cleaning ecosystem. The garden is organic and most of the fertilizer comes from compost. Grapes purchases beneficial insects such as lacewings to eliminate the population of plant-eating insects, and the ducks that live in the pond eat slugs and other unwanted critters.
‘We wanted natural ways to control it,’ Grapes said of the pest problem all gardeners face.
Grapes said her decision to maintain an organic garden stems from her family’s longtime naturalist philosophy.
‘My garden is mainly a place to enjoy nature,’ she said. ‘I’ve always wanted a peaceful place to just go and relax.’
Other gardeners on the tour are Lois and Dick Bennett and Irene and Tom Middlemiss in Irwin, Susan and Dave Guerrieri and Barbara and Dennis Gyory in Herminie and Robin and Rich Henry and Wendy and Keith Staso of North Huntingdon.
The Bennetts’ garden boasts a large birdbath filled with flowers rather than water. The garden – more flowers than grass – is filled with baptisia, delphiniums, larkspur and herbs.
To make their family’s garden unique, the Guerrieris have constructed birdhouses and bric-a-brac for Susan Guerrieri’s perennial gardens. Also distinguishing the garden are their dawn redwoods and cypress tree.
A waterfall and pond, in addition to an arbor and a gazebo, serve as the center of the Gyorys’ garden. Handmade crafts and antiques accent the landscape, which, like the Guerrieris’ yard, is home to several dawn redwoods.
The Henry garden, once home to several pine trees, now features a pond and a waterfall. Perennials such as hens-and-chicks, pachysandra and violets also can be found here, along with 23-year-old tulip trees in the back yard.
The Middlemiss’ 19 small gardens include a Biblical garden with plants named in the Bible, a lily pond, an herb garden and Tom Middlemiss’ garden railroad.
Completing the landscape are a gazebo, seven birdbaths and a nursery from which Irene Middlemiss sells some of her plants.
Brightening up their back yard with color, the Stasos have created a garden with three waterfalls and several river birches. Other details to note: cotoneaster, cleome, cosmos and irises.
DELMONT AREA GARDENS
Delmont area gardens will be on display from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday during the Presbyterian Mariners fifth annual garden tour.
Beginning at the Delmont Presbyterian Church, the tour will feature five homeowners’ gardens, as well as the garden of Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont and a bonsai demonstration.
Chairwoman Donna Slavnik said the tour centers on the work of amateur gardeners.
‘None is a professional, nobody belongs to a garden club,’ Slavnik said. ‘They’re all just people who enjoy gardening.’
Adda Joy Beehner, whose yard includes a vegetable, a perennial and a wildflower garden, as well as a pond and water garden, said she and her husband spend a total of at least 10 hours per week gardening.
‘I retired two years ago, so I have more time to spend in the garden,’ she said. ‘It’s relaxing; it gets me back to nature.’
Linda Veltri, owner of more than 40 bonsai trees, will be bringing an unusual dimension to the tour with her display at Delmont Presbyterian Church.
Bonsai is the art of shaping trees in miniature; it’s said to have its roots in China. A former biology teacher and a member of the Pittsburgh Bonsai Society, Veltri has been working with bonsai for 12 years. She became ‘addicted’ after reading a book or two on the topic, she said.
‘A sculptor can make a sculpture, and a painter can paint a work of art, and their work is done,’ Veltri said. ‘But bonsai keeps growing, and as it grows it keeps changing.’
Other highlights of the tour: