(Editor’s note: “Welcome to My Garden”¿is a monthly column of news and advice for gardeners and would-be gardeners in the Danville area.)
The heat is predicted to reach the high 90’s later today. For now, I will enjoy the cool morning and write this column in my garden, surrounded by the singing of birds, a gentle breeze and the sound of water splashing in a nearby fountain. This is my reward for all the planting, weeding and watering I do … and it is enough.
Summer is the time for picnics. The Danville Garden Club was fortunate to be invited to the Maple Avenue home of John and Mary Jo Bowling, Twin Hollies, for our annual club picnic.
This property includes their 1833 home and two smaller buildings on three acres. The Bowlings are only the fifth owners of the house and have lived there since the 1980s. The previous owner, Mrs. Margaret Glore, was known for her love of flowers and her perennial cutting beds throughout the property.
Gloria Jean Pittman, a cousin of mine, told me she had fond memories of the home and gardens from the early 60’s. Gloria served along with Marji Hines and others on the Altar Guild at Trinity Episcopal Church. Mrs. Glore was one of their main sources of flowers for the altar every Sunday. Gloria smiles as she remembers how Mrs. Glore would call and tell her the flowers would be cut and ready Saturday morning at a precise time when she deemed them to be at their freshest.
When the Bowlings moved into the house, Mary Jo continued the flower beds, adding her own special touches. Her beautiful garden and perennial beds were included in the book, “Gardens of Kentucky,” by Amy Spears, published in 1999. For years, Mary Jo and John both enjoyed caring for the flower beds. That is, until Mary Jo decided it was time to turn the gardens over to John. It wasn’t long before John decided there was too much for one person to maintain.
After an inspiring trip to England, the Bowlings decided to adopt an English green garden style to minimize maintenance, using hollies, yews and a boxwood rope garden. This style of garden is a possibility for anyone wishing to cut back on the ongoing work required by flower beds.
A green garden doesn’t require deadheading, dividing, frequent hand weeding, and all the other little tasks that some people enjoy and others dread. The garden relies instead on its green lawn and trees that shade and provide structural interest, with a framework of shrubs, hedges and paving to give the garden its “bones.” At most, this style only requires pruning once or twice a year to maintain the size and shape desired. Once established, shrubs and trees require less water than flowers, and lawns can be allowed to go dormant during dry spells since they bounce back quickly with rainfall.
Most people remember John Bowling as a former long-term mayor of Danville with a love of begonias. Unable to completely do away with flowers in his garden, John accents the pathways and patios with pretty, red begonias, and uses them to fill urns and hanging baskets.
Another advantage of an English green garden is its four season interest. In the springtime, the deciduous trees put on their show of colorful blossoms and bright green leaves, which darken to deep green through the summer, before turning to beautiful oranges, reds and yellows in autumn. The bare limbs and dark evergreens are sculptural against a winter sky. This is a garden which is gorgeous in the snow, with the outlines of hedges, paving stones and garden statuary standing out against the white background.
An entertaining storyteller, John kept garden club members captivated as we walked around his garden. Every rock, tree and statue has a story. There are 13 millstones throughout the garden which were placed by a previous owner of the home. The stones were removed from a mill on the Dix River slated to be flooded by Herrington Lake in 1925. Other large stones used for benches came from the steps of the old First Christian Church on Main Street, which was destroyed by fire. Bricks in the paths came from a demolished schoolhouse, and the stories go on.
Some of my favorite features on the grounds are the whimsical birdhouses made by Mr. Bowling. Each one is unique, some on trees or posts, others perched on soaring poles among the large hemlocks, hollies, spruce trees and Golden Raintrees. Throughout this wonderful three-acre garden one feels far removed from in-town living. Somehow you know the previous owners of Twin Hollies are smiling their approval on all the work the Bowlings have done there.
After our garden tour, members retreated to linen-covered tables adorned with fresh flowers and delicious food. What a day! We saw so much and heard so many stories about Danville’s past that I’m sure we all felt a little more connected to our wonderful town.
I invite your questions and comments, including gardening tips you have found helpful. Send your comments, questions or tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. The book “Gardens of Kentucky,” which features the Bowling’s garden, is available in both the Boyle County Library and the Mercer County Library.
THE SCOOP: Helpful hints from local gardeners
This is the time to prune your boxwoods and other evergreens. They have finished sending out new growth so will keep the shape you give them. Also trim tired flowers like petunias way back to encourage new blooms and control sprawling stems. With a shot of fertilizer, they will begin blooming again quickly. Keep Knockout roses deadheaded or cut back for constant blooms. Stella D’Oro daylilies can be trimmed six to eight inches from the ground for another flush of blossoms. This only works for repeat blooming daylilies.
In this heat, most outdoor container plants require watering at least once a day. All that water leaches nutrients from the soil, even if you used potting soil that contains time-release fertilizer. Fertilize every week or two with a good liquid fertilizer to keep your containers looking their best all summer.
Here’s a valuable hint from one of our state garden club members for keeping berries fresh a week or more. Rinse them in a bowl of water containing one part vinegar, white or cider, to 10 parts water, drain, air dry, and refrigerate. This will kill bacteria and mold which can quickly ruin fresh berries.
Sarah Wiltsee is the president of the Garden Club of Danville.