Seven gardens offered a view into how to create a backyard oasis for both people and wildlife during the 9th annual Hamburg Garden Tour on July 10.
The Hamburg Community Wildlife Habitat Committee of the Our Town Foundation welcomed the biggest turnout to date of nearly 70 attendees after the pandemic canceled last year’s tour. Normally held in June, the tour was pushed back a month to abide with COVID restrictions and offer tour attendees an opportunity to see different blooming flowers.
The purpose of the tour is to educate participants about pollinator-friendly and monarch-friendly native plants and replenishing resources for wildlife such as bees, butterflies, birds, and amphibians.
Organizers Kay Greenawalt and Sheryle Delewski of the Wildlife Habitat Committee hope the tour gives participants ideas for their own gardens.
“This year we have different things than what we’ve had in the past,” said Delewski. “I do this every year but it’s so interesting to see the different things that each garden has to offer.”
They also hope the tour encourages more gardens to become certified wildlife habitats through the National Wildlife Federation.
Hamburg was the first certified wildlife habitat community in Pennsylvania. To maintain that certification, one of the requirements is to have an educational element each year. The Garden Tour fulfills that requirement.
This year, the tour showcased the use of composting, reforesting, native plants and gardening to feed and shelter birds. Participants were also given informational material about “Five Ways to Help Bees At Home,” “Why Monarchs Matter” and “Milkweed Growing Instructions.”
“Ultimately that is what we want to do, is to provide food, shelter and water for (wildlife),” said Greenawalt.
'Rewilding' Your Yard
Martha and Jay Ressler of Tilden Township, one a fiber artist and the other a photographer and painter, welcomed visitors to their bird friendly garden. When not in their home art studios, they enjoy spending time outdoors in their gardens.
“People have started to call what we’re doing rewilding and I like that. Getting away from the manicured approach to the lawn because many lawns have only one or two species, maybe a boxwood and some grass,” said Martha.
Martha said the term “rewilding” begins to popularize the idea that a little bit of chaos is okay.
“Nothing has to be perfectly manicured with only a few species and perfectly mowed lawns,” said Martha. “Get a few more plants in there and mix it up and let the creatures enjoy it, too.”
Their garden is a certified Penn State extension master gardener pollinator friendly garden, providing a nectar source for spring, summer and fall.
Her advice is to leave a part of the yard unmown. Insects, caterpillars and butterflies will flock to the wildflowers that will grow.
“Almost anything you plant to diversify is better than nothing but the plants that have evolved on this continent, the native plants, are the best because over the millions of years they have co-evolved with the insects and birds,” she said.
Examples include goldenrod, joe pye weed, common milkweed, phlox, Brown Eyed Susans and creeping juniper, to name a few.
“I hope they learn the importance of planting native plants that nourish the birds and bees,” said Jay. “We have a lot of native flowering plants throughout the growing season that the pollinators come to, from humming birds to various bees and moths. We’re also excited about the forest we built.”
Two years ago, the Resslers planted about 800 trees, mostly native, to reforest an area of two and a half acres. The majority are species of oaks: 75 White oaks, 50 pin oaks, 50 black oaks, and 25 Red oaks. The rest are a mixture of native species.
“There has been a huge decline in forests and insects and birds so we wanted to do our little bit with the forest we started to try to popularize the idea of reversing this trend and planting more trees,” said Martha.
Trees host many insects and caterpillars which are the beginning of the food chain as food for birds. Even in the middle of winter, birds can find food because insects and caterpillars live in the bark of oak trees, she said.
Connecting with other garden enthusiasts
In addition to the educational aspect, the tour offered garden enthusiasts a chance to explore other people’s gardens, enjoy the good weather, meet other gardeners and talk about flowers, all particularly enjoyable after a year of social distancing.
Dawn O’Brien of Tilden Township enjoyed seeing other people’s gardens, “seeing what they do and getting new ideas.”
Mary Ann Schwambach of Laureldale and her friend Julie Luca of Kenhorst stopped first at Karen and Mike Stasulli’s Hamburg garden.
“This is gorgeous,” said Luca.
“I like everything. They did a great job here,” said Schwambach. “(Karen) was very informative and very friendly.”
“We’re happy for the day and I’m sure they’re happy the day turned out wonderful for them,” said Luca.
Karen and Mike Stasulli’s Federal Wildlife Federation certified garden showcased perennials, native plants, pokeweed bush, potted plants, two fountains, various sculptures, hanging Staghorn fern, and a line of blooming lilies planted in memory of a family member, as well as feeders for birds and squirrels. Their fig tree is a family heirloom originally from Italy; clippings have been passed down over several generations.
Karen describes their gardening style as free form, letting plants spread on their own.
“Nothing was here when we moved here about 20 years ago and we just kept adding things,” she said. “It’s been a process and we're still not done; work in progress always… It’s a lot of work but when you see this, it’s worth it. We sit out back a lot and enjoy the garden.”
A Garden Oasis
On the other side of Hamburg, visitors were wowed by Ed Gaydula and Carmelo Claudio’s waterfall garden, a certified wildlife habitat that is home to frogs, fish, butterflies and birds.
When they moved to the home in November, Gaydula said there was nothing but the bare bed and the waterfall. He moved perennials from their previous residence and planted them around their new yard.
“Annuals are once a year but perennials will come back a lifetime,” he said.
A horticulturist, Gaydula has been gardening since age 17.
“It’s just relaxing, soothing and stress free; you get lost in it,” said Gaydula.
He hopes tour participants are inspired.
“They can have an oasis like this in their yard; it’s just a lot of work.”
Bea White liked touring other people’s gardens in previous years but enjoyed being able to share her garden on this year’s tour.
“I like showing people what they can do and I like sharing the seeds. It grows and grows and I have too much of it so I like giving it away,” she said.
White said she rescues plants. “I find a plant and I plant it.”
When they moved in 13 years ago, the fenced yard was filled with weeds. Since then, they planted six trees, bushes and perennials.
The family uses the yard every day and the fire pit on weekends. Her grandchildren play in a sandbox and small pool. Visitors are encouraged to find garden gnomes and fairies that reside along the path leading to the backyard.
Even family pets use the yard. Their bearded dragon eats the clover and their chinchilla eats the dandelions. White uses all-natural insecticides rather than pesticides that are harmful to insects and animals.
Her garden features an organic raised bed, composting, vegetables, honeysuckle bush, hibiscus, blueberry and raspberry bushes, crown of thorns and bee balm, as well as numerous natives and perennials. Potted plants fill the yard; she even uses tree stumps as planters. Every year for Mother’s Day, her children and grandchildren give her painted planter pots with their handprints and their names.
Another tour stop was the Hamburg Community Garden featuring native wildflowers and vegetable plots. Water tanks, compost bins and mulch are available for use in the garden. Tilapia R Us, a tilapia fish farm in Shartlesville, provides recycled fish refuse as a soil enhancer.
Lorraine Kunkel’s garden in Upper Tulpehocken Township features a frog pond, wishing well, rain barrel, raised beds and bear sculptures. She uses tree stumps, tractor tires and hay bales as planters. A Vego organic raised bed is filled with logs, branches, plant waste, compost and top soil.
A bonus tour stop was Bill Rhodes’ attention-grabbing yard filled with his hand-crafted colorful sculptures made from recycled items. He has been on the tour several times in the past and was invited this year to give participants an opportunity to see his unique sculptures.
The Committee would like to thank all of the attendees and the participants showing their garden who made this year’s garden tour the best ever with 67 people attending, some of whom were visiting from Florida and Wyoming.
The Committee is already looking forward to next year’s tour and are always looking for new gardens. Anyone interested in showcasing their garden next year, call Kay Greenawalt at 610-562-4329.