WITH VIDEO: Garden club rakes in state awards

ROB AND JAN YOUNG  were named the Ohio Gardeners of the Year Wednesday by the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs. The couple have transformed the backyard of their Frazer Street home into a Mediterranean-style garden that features colorful flowers, vegetables, vines and hanging plants. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

ROB AND JAN YOUNG, above, were named the Ohio Gardeners of the Year this week by the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs. The couple have transformed the backyard of their Frazer Street home into a Mediterranean-style garden that features colorful flowers, vegetables, vines and hanging plants. Mary Schwepe, below, was named the Outstanding Amateur Gardener. Her gardens are spread out over more than an acre at her home on Township 243 near Fostoria. Her favorite flowers are the tulips that emerge in the srping. (Photos by Randy Roberts)

Staff Writer
The Findlay Garden Club and three of its members have received major awards from the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs, including Jan and Rob Young as the Ohio Gardeners of the Year.
Mary Schwepe was also recognized during an awards ceremony held Wednesday at Mohican State Park Lodge in Perrysville as the Outstanding Amateur Gardener for Region 2 which includes Van Wert, Putnam, Allen, Hancock, Mercer, Auglaize and Hardin counties. The Findlay Garden Club was named Garden Club of the Year for Region 2, and the Youngs also received a service award for Region 2.
“We’re just flabbergasted and so happy,” said club president Doris Salis.
She noted that the club has never won any awards before.
“It’s really kind of historical for getting three awards in one year,” she said.
Jan and Rob Young, Ohio Gardeners of the Year
The Youngs have been working on their Frazer Street garden since moving in 26 years ago.
“Evidently the father of the previous owner had gone around the house and cut everything down, so the only thing that was here was the tree and the grape vines in the back that have been on the property for 90-plus years,” said Rob Young.
His wife wanted a flower bed, he recalled, “and it kept progressing farther back.”
A Norwegian maple, which was then only 4 or 5 feet tall, now towers above the garden that covers a plot measuring 50 feet by 150 feet.
Gardening is a shared interest of the couple. Jan grew up on a farm; and Rob’s father would send him out to get wild plants for their backyard when he was young.
They have been members of the Findlay Garden Club for 15 years and are in charge of the club’s display at the Hancock County Fair.
Their garden includes unusual kiwi vines, colorful flowers, hanging plants, a container garden and several varieties of begonias and coleus.
“It’s pretty simple to maintain after May. May is when we plant everything, so that’s the most intense time,” said Jan.
Rob, an engineer, came up with beveled edges along the pathways.
“It’s all about low-maintenance,” he said. “The reason for the beveled edge is so that when you sweep, you sweep it back into the garden. That’s where it came from. It goes back into the garden.”
Weed control is done by mulching around plants with cocoa bean hulls, a tip Jan read about 15 years ago. The couple used to drive to Cincinnati to get the shells, but can now buy them locally.
The Youngs also employ a watering system with eight zones that water different areas at different times of the day and night. They can use city water if there’s a dry period, but can also switch over and use rainwater stored in four large plastic tanks.
“The plants do so much better with rainwater. That’s why we’ve converted over to using as much rainwater as we can,” Rob said.
The garden contains hundreds of different plants.
“We may plot it out where to put plants, or if we see an interesting plant, we just buy and then decide where we’re going to plant it,” Jan said.
The most unusual plants are the kiwi and bamboo, she noted, adding that they don’t take any special care.
“You just plant them and they grow, especially the bamboo,” she said.
An annual bed contains sedum, geraniums and 400-500 snapdragons.
“This center bed, every year to two years, it’s completely different, so we change the annuals around a lot,” said Rob.
“That’s what makes it fun, you can change things,” Jan added.
“The goal was we’d never done a mass planting in snapdragons before, so why not try it?” said Rob. “This part of the garden, we can experiment here. We can try different things, and then we look for different plants and see how well they work.”
Jan enjoys both flowers and vegetables, and grows cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers and eggplant.
“I’ve given up on squash, zucchini and pumpkins because they take up too big of an area,” she explained.
The weather has been particularly hard on the plants this year, Rob noted.
“We’ve lost some plants and then the growth back has not been like what you would expect. Right now it should look like a jungle, and it doesn’t quite look junglish, but it’s getting there,” he said.
The Mediterranean-style garden is to give the visitor the feeling that they’re not in Findlay near a busy university.
“We wanted an older style of garden because our house is over 100 years old,” Jan said.
Three water features include two ponds with year-round pet goldfish. There is also a covered patio area in the middle of the garden that is eight to 10 degrees cooler than out in the sun. It’s also the area where they do the potting in the spring.
The grapevines, which still produce fruit, should yield a crop in the next couple of weeks. “There’s 32 to 33 grape vines here, and we’ll go ahead and pick grapes and we’ll juice between 50 and 70 gallons,” Rob said.
The garden is wheelchair accessible, and nursing home residents visit.
“Winebrenner was right down the street from us, so they would bring wheelchairs in. We even had a hospital bed here,” said Jan.
She said one of the ladies hadn’t talked since moving to the nursing home.
“After she came to our garden, it invoked memories of her childhood and her mother and what she grew and she started talking, so we knew that it was good therapy,” she said.
The university has held some classes in the garden. The couple also hosts a strawberry social in May for family, friends and co-workers with homegrown strawberries.
“The idea is to share it with the community. We get to see it every day, but they get a chance to come in and enjoy the garden,” said Rob.
The couple want to show visitors some new ideas for gardening.
“We do a lot of experimentation with plants and stuff, just to see what works,” Rob said. “And you can’t take it seriously. Take everything with a grain of salt.”
Mary Schwepe, Outstanding Amateur Gardener
Schwepe has lived on Township Road 243 near Fostoria since 1983. She said it’s a nice area to do her gardening.
“The property is an acre and a third and there’s just lots of different places to garden. I could just work all day, every day if I wanted to, but I try to limit it to just small little pieces here and there on the property,” she said.
Schwepe said her retirement a few years ago has given her more time for the hobby.
“I’ve come back to something that happened in my childhood,” she said. “I grew up on a farm in the old Mount Blanchard School district and my mother did a lot of canning as most farming women did, and so now that I’ve got more time, I’m growing and canning.”
Schwepe grows a lot of annuals, daylilies, spring flowers and lilies. Hostas also do well because she has a lot of shaded spots.
“I’m also experimenting. I have one sun bed, and so I’m experimenting with where you grow the vegetables and flowers together,” she said.
“I’m putting vegetable plants in pots. I put some tomatoes in my sun garden, so you have visual as well as practical in my gardens,” Schwepe said. “I’m going to do more of that next year because I like it.”
This year she’s growing tomatoes, three kinds of string beans, onions, red peppers and eggplants.
“I just try a little of everything,” she said.
Schwepe said her favorite plant to grow are tulips that come up in the spring.
“I have red and I have yellow tulips, and they are pretty. I kind of like to see the tulips come forth,” she said.
She enjoys the hobby because it’s relaxing.
“There’s basically no stress. Flowers don’t talk back to me. And it’s fun to plant something and then see what happens. It’s just fun to walk and see the beauty,” she said.
A member of the Findlay Garden Club for four years, Schwepe is also the flower department chairman at the Hancock County Fair.
Findlay Garden Club, Outstanding Garden Club
The Findlay Garden Club has 26 active members. Although there are all ages in the club, Salis said members tend to be retirees who have more free time, but there are some members in their 40s and 50s who are still working.
“Often, unfortunately, we get people who really want to join the club, but then can’t really participate because of other activities,” Salis said. “It’s hard to find people. So many clubs now are competing for people’s attention, not just garden clubs, but other organizations. It’s hard to keep up when you have family and a full-time job.”
Meeting are held once a month, usually on the first or second Tuesday of the month at Fox Run Manor or at the homes of members.
There are often educational programs during the meetings. This past year, programs have ranged from garden design and using water to enhance gardens to new plants and hints for growing vegetables.
“When we have surveyed members, this is one thing, particularly the younger members, they want. They want to learn how to do these things and have the information,” Salis said.
One of the main events for the club each year is a garden tour.
“We had changed our garden tour to the middle of July because before it used to be on Father’s Day. A lot of people also complained because they said our gardens are not really at peak at that time,” Salis said.
The change apparently worked; an estimated 700 people attended this year.
“We’re really happy about the turnout because part of our goal is to help people to beautify their environment,” Salis said. “And we feel this is one way that we certainly can help people do that.”
“They can go to these gardens and get ideas as to what they can do on their own,” she said. “I always emphasize that these are not professionally done gardens. These are what an amateur gardener can do who has an idea and puts a lot of work into it.”
Club members Jan Young and Pat Harris also participated in the Art in Bloom exhibit in Toledo this past year. The show involves people choosing a work of art and then doing a flower arrangement to fit the work.
“This is the first time they had it in Toledo and we were able to participate in it, and I think Jan and Pat did a wonderful job,” Salis said.
In addition to meetings, members hold several plant sales a year and frequently hold potluck dinners.
“We try to do things that are also kind of social to bind the club together,” Salis said. “People can leave their troubles at the door when they come in because they know they’re going to be with a very congenial group.”
She said the awards are another chance for members to come together and celebrate.
“It shows we have people in the club who are really willing to do things and to work and who are very talented,” she said. “And it makes the members proud, I think, even if they didn’t directly participate in anything. I think they’re proud that they’re in an organization that’s got some recognition.”
Wolf: 419-427-8419, Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf



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