Gardening near a nature preserve

Story by Larry DiGiovianni • Photos by John Halley

Avid gardener Jane Lundblad and her husband, Daniel, a retired physician from the former St. Joseph’s Hospital, enjoy retired life on North Hills Drive. Nearby rustic scenery includes walking opportunities into McDonough Wildlife Refuge.

Jane grew up with a family of four children on a farm in Rio, Illinois, where her father grew corn, soybeans, oats and hay. She has always had a knack for growing plants, and in her more than 40 years of gardening has learned that what surrounds your garden has a lot to do with what you can plant, and where.

The nearby proximity of the wildlife refuge offers the reasons behind what flowers, shrubs and trees she plants in the front yard beside the Lundblad’s traditional Georgian-style home, and what she grows in the back yard, where plants are protected by an electrified fence.

Starting in the front yard, one notices an attractive set of purple sensation allium flowers beside an equally appealing blue spruce tree, the allium blooms known to bridge the gap between the spring and early summer.

“Allium flowers are of the onion family, and North Hills Drive has a deer problem,” she said. “That and the spruce are two things of many things that deer don’t eat.”

Jane has done her best to make front yard plants deer-resistant. Beautiful blue-and-white irises, as well as smaller purple Siberian irises, bloom in the front yard along the right of the house. During a late May interview, she spent time pruning them as they continued to bloom overnight and then fade late the next day. Small pebbles dot the ground in high concentration, to keep rain from splashing on the house.

“They also help keep the weeds out,” she added.

The front porch area finds a Brugmansia tree in a shaded spot, and a large hosta plant beside it. Although deer like hosta, they leave this one alone as it’s near the front door. The Brugmansia is also complemented by an Ostrich fern and a Japanese painted fern.

“The Brugmansia’s buds will open in a few days, and beautiful, pendulous, trumpet-shaped flowers will start to bloom,” Jane said.

A sweetgum tree begins dropping its spiky balls in the spring. And although Jane doesn’t like having to rake them up, she says deer have no interest in them. They also stay away from two other flowers for which she is fond, deer-resistant rose campion and larkspur. Out near the mailbox are purple salvia and barberry. It’s an invasive shrub she doesn’t recommend though deer have no interest.

Many of Jane’s flowers end up in her home, as she considers flowers and their amazing smells – like the fragrance of the peonies she has growing on the other side of the house – an essential part of home décor.

“When I first moved here, I was very involved in floral design,” said Jane, who still serves as a flower show judge in Clarksburg once a year. She also belongs to the North Hills Garden Club, and for 20 years, has been a member of the Wood County Master Gardeners Association.

In the non-deer resistant back yard protected by an electrified fence, there are hostas that are grown for their abundant, beautiful foliage. Hummingbird feeders are part of her landscape, and she also has a Mason bee house to create a small hive of pollinators, who are amazing at that task but do not sting. Milkweed is planted to beckon Monarch butterflies, though they are uncommon anymore, she said.

Jane plants her herbs in a wheelbarrow, including lemongrass, cilantro, basil and thyme. She also has a greenhouse to care for the herbs in winter and plants like Camelias, Azaleas and Begonias. Among her cheeriest-appearing plants out back are a heart-shaped topiary plant, and on the shelf below it, a colorful Christmas cactus.

“There’s always a project to do,” Jane said. “I think gardeners will tell you – you’re never finished. There is always something to do or that needs done.”

Many of the plants are grown in terraced arrangements, using stone, as she switched over from railroad ties years ago.

When she is not gardening, Jane has something that keeps her engaged and happy. “I am a quilter and I do enjoy my sewing room,” she said. Her husband, Daniel, is a vintage car enthusiast and used to own a Packard. He belongs to an automobile club.

Jane and Daniel have been married 57 years and have four children and eight grandchildren. She has passed down some of her gardening knowledge to her daughter and three sons, describing her eldest child, Karen, as “being an even better gardener than me.

“We share things from the seed,” she said, pointing to some miniature roses her daughter sent her as seedlings.

Karen lives in South Carolina, as do middle sons Eric and Jeff. Youngest son Chris lives in Chicago.

“He gave me daylilies,” she said, smiling.