Bloom Crew: Blair Garden Club Keeps Local Spaces Eternally Beautiful | News, Sports, Jobs


Blair County Garden Club member Mary Ellen Burke tends to her plants in her shady garden. Mirror photo of Patrick Waksmunski

When it comes to creating beautiful flower-filled spaces in Blair County, members of the Blair Garden Club dig their trowels, plant perennials and annuals, haul water and weeds, weeds, weeds.

The club has about 60 members, said Duncansville president JoAnn Propcheck, who voluntarily tends to beds at the intersection of Chestnut Avenue and Eighth Street, the grounds of Baker Mansion, an area across from the theater Mishler and the American Legion Social Hall. in Legion Park in Holidaysburg.

The Blair Garden Club is one of many voluntary organizations involved in the Discovery Garden, also at Legion Park, she said, and suggests visiting the public gardens as a fun and free activity, especially if you are hosting guests. from the outside.

Whether planting a public garden or one in the backyard, gardeners create visual interest throughout the growing season with a mix of foliage colors, heights and bloom times.

“My gardens are generally all perennials, so everything blooms in its time”, said Mary Ellen Burke. “So you always have something blooming, and as that happens, you have something new blooming the next week.”

Mary Ellen Burke tends to her plants in her “She Shed” garden in Altoona. Mirror photo of Patrick Waksmunski

Penstemon is a favorite due to its dark foliage accented with bell-shaped white flowers that appear in spring. As the flowers fall, pea-sized red beads emerge, perfect for holiday decorating.

When her honeysuckle tree and lavender plants bloom, these scents add another dimension that stimulates the senses. Her garden reflects her friendships and favorite flowers, Burke said.

The best gardens, said club member Lisa Merschiltz, reflect the tastes, time and talents of an individual gardener.

Merschiltz has more than 50 native plants in its gardens and is in the process of being certified as a pollinator garden by Penn State.

Propcheck hired a professional landscaper to start a new bed and added perennials to it over the years to improve and change its appearance. Like many, she mixes lavender, oregano and other herbs among her plants.

Butterfly milkweed blooms in Mary Ellen Burke’s garden in Altoona. Mirror photo of Patrick Waksmunski

“I think it looks prettier. Herbs often have a different season and they do well among other plants,” she says. She puts mint chocolate in a large copper pot, for example. Some plants like mint spread quickly, so if that’s a problem, she recommends putting it in a pot first, then burying the pot below ground level in a garden. “Some plants like mint spread like crazy and can be invasive. That keeps it contained.

Burke has transformed his triple plot into a perfectly appointed retreat in the Fairview area filled with a variety of flowers.

“It’s as close to nature as possible. I love digging and planting something and watching how it grows and what it becomes. If it doesn’t work here, then you move it somewhere else or give it to someone else and let them try to grow it.

Across town in the Ebner Elementary area, Merschiltz takes a nature-focused approach to helping bees and insects with a pesticide-free lawn and native plantings. It’s a messier look than Burke’s, she said, because she doesn’t chemically treat her lawn, allowing the clover to flourish, and she doesn’t cut the plantings in the fall, leaving them as insect shelters in winter.

Some of the native plants in his garden include columbine, baptisia, penstemon, creeping phlox, zizia, milkweed, joe pye, cardinal flower, nodding onion, and great blue lobelia. Butterflies, like monarchs, use coneflowers and asters as sources of nectar when they migrate each fall.

Flowers bloom in Mary Ellen Burke’s garden in Altoona. Mirror photo of Patrick Waksmunski

Although the individual members of Blair Garden have different styles of home gardens, they unite in working committees and take on the responsibilities of spring cleaning, planting sessions, weekly maintenance, weeding duties and gardening. watering.

Gateway Project coordinators Nancy Fogel and Marcy Hatch oversee and organize 32 volunteers who weed and water with in-kind assistance from the Altoona Public Works Department, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy plantings, and sponsorship from UPMC. The club has planted the area for 16 years and is overwhelmed by traffic estimated at 30,000 vehicles a day, Fogel said.

“Planting day in May is our main working day,” says Fogel of Holidaysburg. “We plant about 900 annuals. (Then) mulch the annual beds. It takes about 160 five-gallon buckets of mulch – which we have to shovel from the pile into the buckets, carry and spread on the beds.

The location features drought-tolerant perennials, various grasses, daylilies, hostas, and yuccas accented by colorful annual flowers such as celosias. Celosias have dark burgundy feathery plume-like blooms and burgundy shaded leaves. that contrast with the shiny silver foliage of the dusty sucker, Fogel said.

Members of the garden club also take care of the beds at the Baker Mansion at 3419 Oak Lane. Other groups, such as the staff and volunteers of the Crossroads Services Day Program, also help maintain the grounds.

Blair County Garden Club member Lisa Merschiltz tends to her Blue False Indigo in her garden in Altoona. She takes a nature-based approach to her garden that aims to help bees and insects with a pesticide-free lawn and native plantings. Mirror photo of Patrick Waksmunski

The mansion has multiple beds, including teardrop and horseshoe beds, unique 4-foot-diameter pans and other landscaping features, said Bridget Mellott-Lostaglia, group leader of work.

Larger flower beds feature perennials with plenty of smaller landscaping areas, complete with urns, pots and planters, Mellott-Lostaglia said. Annuals are planted the last two weeks of May in preparation for the mansion’s peak tourist season.

Visitors will find a variety of flowers and plants ranging from orange and yellow celosias, dusty suckers, dahlias, conical lilies, royal purple fountain grasses, Solomon’s seal, lady’s mantle and more. The horseshoe garden showcases perennials such as oregano, hearty hibiscus, purple iris, Shasta daisies, blue phlox, and lemon balm.

In bloom

The Blair Garden Club meets at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month, February through November, at the American Legion Social Hall, 1501 N. Juniata St., Hollidaysburg. For more information call or text 814-932-6499 or email [email protected]

Milkweed flowers bloom in Lisa Merschiltz’s garden in Altoona. Mirror photo of Patrick Waksmunski

The nonprofit organizes informational programs, speakers and activities supported by a two-day plant sale that takes place on the Friday and Saturday after Mother’s Day each May.

Whether it’s a new garden or refreshing existing beds, Blair Garden Club members share these tips:

Match the amount of sun or shade the planting area receives to the type of plant.

Vary the plant type, foliage color and flowering schedule to provide visual interest throughout the growing season.

Plan: Create a written diagram of the space noting where the plants are, and keep the plastic stick that shows the recommended sunlight, soil, and watering conditions.

Water newly planted flowers, shrubs or trees liberally to establish root systems.

Trees do best when planted in the fall.

Plant spring bulbs in the fall.

Add mulch to retain moisture and keep the soil insulated.

Experiment: If a plant is not growing well in one place, move it to another place. Still not flourishing? Share it with a friend.

Use soil test kits found at hardware stores and local garden centers to find out the acidity or alkalinity of the soil.

Be patient.

Learn through resources such as the Penn State Extension Service and the Juniata Valley Audubon Society.

Rudbeckia perennials from Lisa Merschiltz’s garden are used by monarch butterflies as sources of nectar during their fall migration. Mirror photo of Patrick Waksmunski

Blair County Garden Club member Mary Ellen Burke tends to her plants in her shady garden. Mirror Photo Illustration by Cynthia Wise/Mirror Photos by Patrick Waksmunski

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