By AIMEE KUVADIA
Mike and Cathy Johnson toiled over their garden for 15 years. And finally they’re getting to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
The scorching summer heat leads people to retreat indoors, where they’re shielded from the sun and have air conditioning. But the Johnsons created a shaded sanctuary in their backyard with a waterfall and pond, so they can take pleasure in the outdoors without experiencing its disadvantages.
“We both are retired, so now we just play in the yard,” said Cathy. “It’s a nice place to relax.”
Mike and Cathy, like some other Crescent Hill residents, had the right idea. They’re able to make the most out of summer, because of the outdoor space they’ve designed. The Johnsons’ garden was among the 10 showcased in the Crescent Hill Garden Tour, which took place Saturday.
The Garden Tour, organized by the Crescent Hill Garden Club, is an annual tradition. For 18 years, the event has helped raise money for the group’s neighborhood beautification projects. Recently, the club donated a birdbath to the historic Peterson-Dumesnil House, which was the first stop on the tour. It’s also where the organization holds its monthly meetings.
Before departing on an extensive day of garden hopping, tour attendees were able to enjoy a savory brunch prepared by club members, while the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra provided soothing background music. The menu included country ham, spinach quiche and a fruit compote.
Some people do yoga to cope with stress. Others golf. But Garden Club members have found working in their gardens is as effective a stress-coping strategy as anything else.
“Garden therapy,” is what member Cabrina Bosco called it. “It’s cheap and makes your garden look pretty. Some people work out. I garden.”
Cabrina, however, has gone beyond classic gardening. To her, gardens should be as much practical as aesthetically appealing. Her garden contains two beehives and chickens. She said that by people constantly spraying pesticides, they’re killing off bees that are needed for pollination.
“I don’t do it for the honey, even though it’s a nice reward,” she said.
Lynn Roberson, whose garden was featured on the tour, also has chickens, but for different reasons than Cabrina’s.
“If one pays attention to our friends, they’ll teach us much about ourselves,” he said.
Lynn feels humans could learn from the simplistic nature of chickens. In fact, he has designed his garden to be conducive to just this kind of Eastern-inspired reflection.
“All my time working in the garden is meditation,” said Lynn. “I’ve been inspired by Zen gardens. I like the contemplative, spiritual aspect.”
A large koi pond is the garden’s most prominent feature. But purple Japanese Irises and orange zinnias supply it with a beautiful burst of color. A bamboo fence that will eventually break down encloses it. Lynn said the fence symbolizes the Buddhist principle of impermanence, which argues that change should be embraced.
Stone statues of Buddha grace both the front and back entrances. In the front, Buddha is sitting cross-legged looking over a small goldfish pond. In the back, he’s welcoming visitors in the traditional pose of greeting after enlightenment.
If Lynn and his wife Carol Cook’s garden embodies Asian beliefs, J.R. Cannaday and Allen Montgomery’s garden embodies the belief that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Much of their “yard art” was salvaged from J.R.’s family farm in McLean County, Ky., and some they collected during the city’s junk pickup days. They cleverly used a watering can and laundry sink they found to construct a fountain.
“All of this old, rusty farm stuff is what makes the garden unique,” said J.R.
Though some of these homeowners have been forced to travel away from their homes to retrieve items and plants for their gardens, Bob Volpert and Steve Willis’s garden is a testament to the idea that everything one needs is right here.
It’s mostly comprised of woody plants and trees native to Kentucky, including prickly pears, meadow rues, and beautiful Bottlebrush buckeyes that line the walkway.
A tall, red sculpture by local artist Dave Caudill titled “Three Lines on a Lark,” stands out as the garden’s most striking feature. Though it came with the property, it was originally red, yellow and blue. But Bob and Steve with the artist’s permission had it painted completely red.
“It was the biggest little project in the world,” laughed Bob.
Though they adore the sculpture and everything else in their garden, what Bob and Steve like the most is watching their garden transform through the seasons.
“There’s always something new blooming,” Bob said. “It’s always changing and evolving.”
Garden Tour participants successfully inspired people to improve their outdoor spaces and engage in “garden therapy.”
“It makes you want to go home and be more creative,” said Mary Schmidt, who is 70 years old and can’t believe it’s only her first year on the tour. “I want to see what I can do in my own yard.”
Mary’s already excited about what’s in store for next year’s tour.
“It’s amazing what people can do with their yards. Every yard has its own character,” she said. “How people take junk and make it art. It’s unreal.”