Marie F. McCarty: Gardening’s always been restful

Retired 95-year-old has carved out 250 sq. ft. garden among condominiums

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    Marie F. McCarty mixes yard art and flowers.

    The Blade/Lori King
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  • 95-year-old Marie F. McCarty poses near the garden.
    95-year-old Marie F. McCarty poses near the garden.

    Garden decorations
    Garden decorations

    Name: Marie F. McCarty, retired housewife (95 years old), living near the former Southwyck Shopping Center in South Toledo.

    PHOTO GALLERY: Marie F. McCarty's condo grove

    Garden specs: In a large, grassy courtyard surrounded on one side by our group of 32 condos and on the other by the parking lot, I’ve dug out a curvilinear bed, 50-feet-by-5-feet, following the lines of where an in-ground pool used to be. It expands a little each year. Also, a 4-foot-by-40-foot strip next to our building. I live with my daughter, Pat Woody, who is president of the condo association. I’ve also gardened at my other daughter’s home in Maumee.

    When did you start gardening? I was born in 1918. The streetcar ran past our house at 1810 Sylvania Ave. and it was practically like country. We had about two acres with pigs, chickens, and a cow and made butter and cheese. My father kept bee hives and we kids sold the honey tin the neighborhood, $1 for a half gallon. Mother’s vegetable garden was probably a half-acre and she gave me my own patch. I think I was the only one of the five children interested in flowers. I loved iris, so I went door to door asking people for iris starts and most people said ‘we’ll go out and dig some,’ and I’d get a root. By the time I started at Longfellow School, I had maybe 50 to 60 kinds of iris. My mother worked alongside me and taught me how to do things and I kept expanding my plot. One summer, my brother and I hauled round rocks from the Maumee River and we dug out a goldfish pond. After I married in 1936, I kept at it, and when we moved to a farm on Strayer Road, I had a big garden and a backyard full of flowers.

    Garden decorations
    Garden decorations

    What do you grow? Now I work on flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies like hostas, salvias (red and black & blue), butterfly bush, and mandevilla vines.

    Favorite plant: Peonies.

    Give us a gardening tip: You need good soil. I start a bed by digging down about six to eight inches, putting the soil on a tarp, and then sifting it through a screen to eliminate stones and debris. Then, in a wheelbarrow, I mix a bag each of peat moss, cow manure, and top soil with some of the screened dirt, and return it to the bed. I love undertaking a new bed.

    Hours spent gardening per week: From three to four hours to 20-30 hours; often until dark.

    Annual expense: About $1,000.

    Challenges: Clay! Stones! Break up the clay and sieve out gravel and stones, then mix with aforementioned soil combination.

    A birdbath in the garden.
    A birdbath in the garden.

    I’m proud of: My garden at the farm of many different peonies, poppies, roses, and iris. For many years I lived in Melbourne, Fla., where I was president of the garden club and also studied ikebana flower arranging. I even traveled to Japan to enter an ikebana competition.

    What I’ve learned gardening: I know it’s a lot of work, but it’s always been restful. I can go out and see the beauty.

    Contact Tahree Lane at tlane@theblade.com and 419-724-6075.