Tour highlights homes where gardens bring joy
By Candy Williams
Published: Sunday, June 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Orv and Bonnie McConnell, their three Shelties and two cats make their home in North Huntingdon on land that was once a farmer's field. Frequent visitors include a variety of wild birds, squirrels and other woodland creatures — some more welcome than others.
One of seven stops on Greensburg Garden Center's “The Joy of Gardening” garden tour, the McConnells' residence on Barnes Lake Road is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat. The property surrounding their house is a treasure trove of unusual varieties of perennials, shrubs and trees, along with water features, birdhouses and feeders.
The couple has worked hard to beautify their landscape. Since their retirement, Bonnie, a former elementary teacher with Norwin School District, and Orv, who worked for Elliott Co. in Jeannette, have had more time to pursue their mutual interest in gardening.
Orv credits the well-fertilized farm soil for the success they have had in most everything they grow — from their 100 varieties of day lilies and hostas to a large selection of ornamental trees, including some unusual varieties like their tri-color beech and “Cherokee Sunset” dogwood, and eight varieties of Japanese maples, including a “Flamingo” variety with pink, cream and green variegated foliage.
He is the mastermind behind several ornamental structures “built out of necessity,” he says, that serve as trellises, arbors, walls and fences. When he decided to install a pondless stream to meander through an existing flower bed in their backyard off the patio, he says he wasn't sure how difficult the project would be, as he'd never tackled building a stream before.
“I watched a video and figured I'm either going to flood the house or end up with a trickle of water,” he says. Neither happened and his stream is now a favorite destination for birds that stop by to take a drink or splash in the shallow water.
Off to one side of the patio close to their house is a small cascading waterfall, which Bonnie says was a retirement gift from her husband. Bordering the backyard is a row of “Knockout” roses in full bloom with pink, yellow, blush, red and double-red flowers.
In their large vegetable garden, corn, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, beets, potatoes and green beans are among the crops that Bonnie will freeze to enjoy when summer has ended. Other edibles include raspberry bushes and apple, pear, cherry and plum trees.
She is especially proud of her patriotic flower bed, where hosta varieties mixed with Jacob's ladder are chosen for their patriotic names: “Patriot's Fire,” “Fourth of July,” “Blaze of Glory,” “Peace” and “Minute Man.” The front yard features a large shade garden with hostas, hellebores (Christmas rose), ferns and Solomon's seal, a Native American woodland plant.
If the McConnells aren't tending to their plants and flower beds, there's a good chance that they're visiting local nurseries to scout out new additions for their gardens. Bonnie says it's one of their favorite pastimes.
Highlights of other gardens on the self-guided tour include:
• Bob and Janet Bentz, featuring a two-tier pond and beds filled with perennials, shrubs and ornamental trees, including a variety of iris plants that have been in the family for 75 years.
• Rick and Sharon Schwirian, with 10 varieties of hydrangeas, and herbs, vegetables and flowers grown from seed by son Chris and window boxes planted by daughter Katrina.
• Jeff and Pat Bates, highlights include ornamental trees, including Golden chain, white pine, mimosa, “Twisty Baby” locust and Southern magnolia, tropical plants, four garden fountains and various garden ornaments.
• Bill and Annie Gillingham, with topiary-style conifers, a weeping Japanese maple, roses, lilies and salvia, a fairy garden maintained by the couple's 9-year-old daughter and succulents grown by their 6-year-old son.
• Maurice and Sybil Williamson, featuring 100 varieties of hostas, a woodland garden with hellebores, European ginger and ferns, a large Harry Louder's walking stick and dawn redwood.
• Dick Errett, with miniature conifers, sedums and mosses along with collected rocks and artifacts, lilies and four Franklinia trees started from seeds from Longwood Gardens.
Mary Ann Artman is chairwoman of this year's garden tour. Refreshments will be provided at the McConnells' garden.
Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Big Ben’s contract clock ticking
- ‘Un-American’? That’s Harry Reid, the Senate’s lowly smear artist
- Talented center Sutter is proving to be ‘pretty important’ for Penguins
- Original tea partyers returning to GOP fold
- Penguins notebook: Beau Bennett returns to practice
- Pirates reserve outfielder Dickerson is also at home on soccer pitch
- Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg to be featured in TV series
- Pitt looking to enhance profile at ACC tourney
- Duquesne man dies in crash
- Western Pennsylvania engineer aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’