When Beverly Harmon was approached last year about being on the 19th annual Garden Stroll, she wasn’t sure if she could commit to it due to personal circumstances.
Her oldest daughter, Cheryl Miller, was battling breast cancer, and Harmon didn’t know how much time she had left to spend with her or whether she had the time — or energy — to make her garden stroll-ready. However, when Miller passed away in October at age 52, Harmon agreed to showcase her garden for the 19th annual Howard County Master Gardener Garden Stroll.
The stroll, she said, would be a great way to pay tribute to her daughter. Recently, she added a brand new garden dubbed “Cheryl’s Garden” to honor her.
“I think Cheryl sees us already,” Harmon said. “We’ve got a sign up, and we’ve got a bench in (her garden). Her grandpa used to call her ladybug, and we’ve got a ladybug in there too.”
Gardening, Harmon said, is therapy for her, and now in her senior years, she said it’s something that helps her stay active. And with her property consisting of three lots and gardens all around the house and property lines, it keeps her going.
“It is a lot of work, but I enjoy it. It’s like therapy, the digging the dirt,” she said.
The expansive property consists of a raised-bed vegetable garden, shaded nature areas, and a mix of varieties of perennials, such as hostas, coral bells, sun-dwelling butterfly weed, red hot poker, and blue false indigo.
Harmon has been working on the garden since moving to the property 30 years ago, though she said she’s been gardening for twice that long. Her love of being in the garden started when she was a child when she and her siblings would help their mother pick strawberries, raspberries, green beans, and whatever else was needed on the farm.
The gardener encouraged others to pursue their passions.
“If you have something that you really enjoy, do it. That’s what you need to do,” she said. “For me, I’m 72. If I sit down and don’t do anything, like a lot of people, then that’s no good. I get out. I do a lot of canning, but it’s nice to look out and see something blooming, something alive.”
Another longtime gardener on the stroll this year is Jeannie Gale — and it’s not her first rodeo, or even her second. This year marks the third time Gale has been on the Garden Stroll, and she’s been in a different house every time.
Gale first appeared on the stroll in 2006 when she lived in Westbrook subdivision. She returned in 2014 at a two-story home on Greentree Court, and this year she’s back again in a home across the street in the same court after moving there close to two years ago.
In that time, Gale has revamped the property and given it a tropical feel with hibiscus, elephant ears, and Mandevilla vide while still sprinkling it with her signature style: cobalt blue gazing balls and pots.
“It’s a mix of sun and shade, which I’ve never had any shade before, and I have probably 20 new blue pots since the last stroll. I still gravitate to cobalt blue, a lot of bird baths, and gazing balls,” she said.
The other gardeners whose gardens made the list for the 2019 stroll are Don Killingbeck; Bill Steinbacher and Rebecca Beers; and Gary and Debbie Causey.
Marian Cable, a Howard County Master Gardener and stroll organizer, said she’s proud of the five gardens on the stroll, which all are located close to the same vicinity, allowing guests to easily venture from one garden to the next.
On the day of the stroll, guests are encouraged to drop by the welcome center, located at the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library South Branch, 1755 E. Center Road, where a butterfly garden is taking center stage. Several speakers will talk about butterfly gardening and pollinators at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Volunteers also are being sought to help with the butterfly garden.
This year’s theme is “Going Native,” and Cable to hopes to help better educate the public on native plants versus invasive plants.
“We’re trying to get more people to plant more natives and less invasives that are harmful to other plants and wildlife because the wildlife depends on natives for food,” Cable said.
Cable encouraged people to visit www.growindiananatives.org to find a list of native plants and invasive plants. The site lists the top 15 plants to avoid and suggestions of what to plant instead. Plants on the invasives list include Asian bush honeysuckle, Japanese honeysuckle, Japanese knotweed, burning bush, Japanese barberry, and sweet autumn clematis.
Cheryl said the biggest problem with planting invasives simply comes down to a lack of education on the subject.
“That’s the problem, so what we’re trying to do is educate people on things pollinators actually want and can use because when these invasives get in there, they crowd out the natives and take over,” she said. “I’m not saying everyone go out and plow up everything they’ve got, but when it comes time to get rid of something, put in a native instead.”
The welcome center also will be home to the Howard County Master Gardeners plant sale and vendors, such as Brian’s Birdhouses and Cabins, Garden Art by Eulaine, and Gazing Ball Bling.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $8 at Jefferson House of Flowers & Gifts, Kokomo-Howard County Public Library Main, Kokomo-Howard County Public Library South, Banner Flower House, Bowden Flowers and Gifts, Cossell’s Creative Landscaping, Eden’s Way, Flowers by Ivan & Rick, Garden Gate Greenhouse in Peru, Salsbery Garden Center, Pro Hardware in Russiaville, White Lilies ‘n’ Paradise, and the Howard County Historical Society office.
Tickets are $10 the day at the stroll at the welcome center. The event takes place Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event serves as a fund raiser for Howard County Master Gardeners Association.