News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 17, 2013

Mastering the art of Gardening

Tour shows off green thumbs

Jane Santucci
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Wabash Valley Master Gardeners group gathered over the weekend to marvel at each other’s gardens on its annual garden tour. The event was a chance for master gardeners to showcase their labor of love, meanwhile sharing stories about their plants.

The first stop on the tour was at master gardener Patti Weaver’s home. This was the third year she had promised to showcase her home, but the first year she felt like it was at a level to be displayed. She describes her property as being eclectic, a space where the plants ramble with no pattern. She has vegetables in with the plantings, and herbs mixed in with vegetables.

“It is kind of haphazard, kind of the way I live my life,” Weaver said jokingly.

As folks navigated through her property, they had the chance to ask Patti questions about the variety of different plants she has and how she is able to sustain them. A plant that may grow well in northern Vigo County, may not do as well in the southern part of the county because of soil makeup.

“I don’t really do anything special to my plants to make them grow, but it seems that I have two green thumbs and a couple green toes, so I can pretty much grow anything,” Weaver said.

The second stop on the tour was at Philip Ewoldsen’s home. While Philip is not a master gardener he seasonally provides tours for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Indiana State University. The word traveled on how magnificent his gardens are, and it was suggested to master gardeners that they include his home on the tour.

“There is a real joy in creating the gardens, but then there is a real joy in sharing them as well,” Ewoldsen said.

Unlike most gardeners who host a tour, Philip started the tour inside his home. He shared the story about looking for a painting to sit above his mantle. The painting he selected was of a rural Italian setting with a big arch as the focal point and a garden and waterfall in the distance. Philip used the painting as inspiration to create a portion of his backyard.

When Philip bought his house six years ago, he said, there was nothing more than a few trees and shrubs and a large raised bed in the front yard. He recalls moving in during March, and by the first of June had planted the raised bed in the front yard and added a big shade bed in the back, along with five vegetable beds.

To date, he has thousands of daffodils and 285 types of daylilies. The majority of the spaces in his yard are a result of a past inspiration, such as from his travels to New Mexico which led to a New Mexican-inspired garden plot. From a book he shared with his grandkids that had pictures of a house where the walls started close together at the bottom and angled out up top, he created a garden space with that kind of focal point.  

“I don’t like wood fences. We use fruit trees and trellises down one side and tall plants down the other, which give us a certain amount of privacy, yet sitting on our patio at night we can watch the sunset,” Ewoldsen said.

Philip’s property is a space many dream of accomplishing, and he said it is one that is obtainable and offers a few slices of advice to fellow gardeners to get there. First, start small. Pick an idea that makes sense to you and one you can mange. If you don’t have gardening experience, keep it simple. If you do have gardening experience, think of something fascinating and try to duplicate it. After the small space is established, and if you think you have the time and energy to add-on, move forward to the next phase.

The final stop on the garden tour was at master gardener Bill Hiatt’s arboretum in Staunton. Since he purchased the home in the 1960’s, he has spent five decades working to maintain and make improvements. His 1865 home sits atop a hill, positioned approximately in the middle of more than seven acres of land. The best way to understand exactly what species you are looking at is to use the guidebook Bill handed out.

His property includes a waterfall and two ponds, which are connected by a stream. Both ponds are stocked with goldfish and Koi. A visitor meandering his property will see many types of trees, from pines to hollies. In addition, one will discover bushes, flowers, statues and benches scattered around the property. Because there is so much to look at, golf cart tours were provided.

“My wife likes jumping in the golf cart, running around the yard to check out my weeds and plants to see what they are doing,” Hiatt said.

While his landscape is a spectacle, it is not a completed project, he said, rather a work-in-progress.

That was a similar notion shared by many master gardeners who opened their homes for the annual garden tour.

For more information on becoming a Purdue Master Gardener, call the Vigo County Extension office at 812-462-3371.