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Back and Better than Ever:

Just Gardens returns in 2016


From its humble beginnings, Just Gardens has grown into a much anticipated spring event over the past 16 years.  “We originally set out with the idea of opening private gardens to the public for a two day event”, said Mary Lloyd Lay, one of the original group of women who formed Just Gardens.  “We thought showing the possibilities of what could be grown in our zone 7 might be helpful, informative and fun.”  


The first tour in 2001 featured six gardens in two counties.  “I think we had about 250 people tour the gardens; all giving us very positive feedback. We decided we had a winner and we should plan a repeat tour for the next year.  That was 16 years and 14 tours ago”, according to Anne Olsen, another member of the Just Gardens committee.


“The Haven Shelter and Services was a natural beneficiary of the funds that would be raised through ticket sales.  They have been an integral part of the event pledging support with mailing lists, and providing able bodies during the two-day event to direct cars, take tickets, et al.”, commented Olsen.


Just Gardens has donated over $140,000 to the Haven.  The funds have helped build a new shelter, assist in the maintenance of the shelter and support the programs The Haven provides, to victims of domestic and sexual violence.  The funds also helped with the establishment of the Shoppe for Haven’s Sake thrift store in Warsaw.


“We try to keep every tour fresh by offering different locations, a mix of cottage and more formal styles, sunny gardens, gardens in shade, a real mix of landscapes”, continued tour chairman Anne Olsen.  “Our goal is for the visitor to leave with a new idea he or she might want to try in their own garden.  Gardening is all about experimenting”, she went on to say.


This upcoming May 20 and 21 tour will feature five gardens in Lancaster County.  All of the gardens are within 10 miles of each other, and are located in Irvington and White Stone.

The Schaschek garden on King Carter Drive in Irvington is an “eclectic work in progress” according to owner Bonnie Schaschek.  “Each year we create another garden area, solve an existing landscape problem, remove plants that don’t work, and cultivate our vegetable gardens.”  On 5 ½ acres, the Schaschek property includes a putting green, a pool and outdoor entertainment area, a root vegetable garden and a large fenced vegetable garden.  There is an interesting assortment of shrubs and over 75 trees that have been planted for screening.  Several varieties of roses and a big mix of other perennials have been used in the fenced pool area. Containers are aplenty and there are no color schemes that are off-limits.  “Being a part-time resident for the first several years of owning this property, made gardening decisions easy.  Whatever we did needed to be minimal maintenance and planted with a purpose; like water absorption, windbreak, or privacy.”  It’s easy to see that gardening, both flower and vegetable, has become a passion for Bonnie.

On a side street just past The Tides Inn, native plant member Paula Boundy has a cottage garden complete with garden arch to welcome visitors.  When Paula purchased the one-acre property in 2012, the house, built in the 1890s and added on over the years, was surrounded by evergreen hedges and Asian-style garden beds.  An avid proponent of using native plants to attract and provide sustenance to wildlife, Paula wanted both beauty and biodiversity and set out to achieve it.  She started by removing the hedges and she is still adding to the beds with Virginia natives such as Virginia sweetspire, Butterfly weed, and Southern arrowood.  Plants that would provide flowers, berries and seeds are selected and then placed with consideration to pleasing plant heights, leaf textures, and seasonal color.  The resulting informal, low-maintenance garden is proof that natives can be lovely while contributing to the survival of pollinators, birds, and other wildlife.

On either side of Old Mill Cove off Carter’s Creek, the Edmonds and the Earle gardens deal with shoreline issues and sunlight from different angles.  


Judy Earle describes her overall approach as “pragmatic formal”.  While her garden design is somewhat formal, she only uses plants that are easy to grow and require little maintenance.  When she and husband Marshall found this property eight years ago many of the trees and shrubs planted by the former owner were in poor shape.  Judy removed many of the original plants and moved others to new locations.  The small perennial garden received a complete make-over and native grasses were added at the water’s edge to protect the bank and stabilize the shoreline.  Mature wax myrtles and Eastern Red Cedars along with crepe myrtles and ornamental plums help to screen the house from the road.  Hollies and flowering shrubs add interest on the waterside of the property.  The owners will be on hand to discuss how they have amended the soil, how they deal with a part-sun garden, and how they continue to deal with a large deer problem.


A Special Thanks to Our Event Sponsors: 

On the opposite side of Old Mill Cove, Susan and Gene Edmonds have transformed a garden with good bones into a garden with great variety and three seasons of bloom.  Using a multitude of perennials she transplanted from her former New Jersey garden, Susan gave her new garden the texture and layers of color it so needed. The removal of some old growth trees and some diseased shrubs and trees on the street-side, created a sunnier landscape and more plant options.  Still “a work in progress” it is interesting to see how one couple manages a landscape re-do.  The back yard, accessed down a pathway between house and garage, is the real show-stopper at this property.  A pretty deck and screened porch overlook a manicured lawn edged with a wide perennial border.  Like so many informal English gardens, this one mixes color, height, texture, bloom time, fragrance, and variety, with the best of them.


Gardenias, baptisia, iris, dianthus, deutzia and lots of herbs will be on display in May.  The house and main garden area are perched on a 40 foot high precipice overlooking the cove and an additional terraced garden is reached by steps.


A wooden walkway passes through a natural area abundant with bird life. It is planted with flag iris and native grasses on the way to the dock.

Deborah Brooks moved to her home in Muskreek on Mosquito Creek in White Stone, in 2008. She began to transform a clearing in the woods to an exciting landscape complemented by flower beds, trees, vegetables, and herbs.  It is now a delightful private retreat with a pool, terrace, gazebo, pond, and whimsical features to entertain visitors.


Mermaids appear in unexpected niches. Sustainable gardening plus bird and bat houses and feeders attract birds, bees, and butterflies. Because it is important to Deborah to provide flowers and foliage at all seasons for flower arrangements, her garden is full of color and interesting, dramatic plants.  Along the wooded area, there are blueberries, crape myrtle, bayberry, Mexican petunias, daisies, and herbs; there is a natural transition from lawn to woods, as well as to the shore of the adjacent creek. In the midst of its quiet seclusion, this garden has a lot of excitement and fun!


The two-day tour to benefit The Haven Shelter & Services will take place Friday and Saturday May 20 and 21. The gardens, during this rain or shine event will be open from 10 am until 4pm.


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