Camela Nitschke stands under climbing roses under one of her Trellises.
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Garden specs: On a third of an acre, an 80-by-60-foot area has 10 rectangular beds divided by gravel paths. My father built a 12-by-12-foot pergola and a trellis with benches beneath; we’ve had to rebuild them a few times.
PHOTO GALLERY: Camela Nitschke‘s Monet inspired garden
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When did you start gardening? As a little girl in Perrysburg Township, watching my parents tend to their separate gardens. My father followed in his father’s footsteps and always had a vegetable garden that provided us with a great variety of healthy vegetables for soups and salads. I was mainly his “taster.” My mother absolutely loved flowers and every morning she greeted her garden with a “Good morning, glories!“ Her flowers were my first samples of a floral palette which I sketched and colored in my school tablet. In second grade I won a ribbon for a sketch of “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary’s” garden.
As a young adult, I visited and was inspired by Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, where the artist lived from 1883 to 1926. After my own family moved to our 1830s house about 30 years ago, my father helped me plan a garden in a weeded area within view of the house. He rototilled and added compost and manure to the clay soil. We realized it would be out of the question to recreate every detail of Monet’s garden, so we concentrated on a few simple ideas. The narrow log borders that lined Giverny’s rectangular beds seemed easy enough, but they deteriorated in two years.
We created 10 beds, each with perennials in specific colors. This worked for a while until I learned that many perennials didn’t like my soil and refused to return in following years, so amongst the perennials, I tucked in annuals that bloomed all season and provided continual color.
Other Monet ideas I use are trellises, an espaliered apple tree, and in the middle of some rectangles, small flowering trees and climbing roses. I like mixing tall plants like hollyhocks in with daylilies.
I first tried French roses like Cecile Brunner, Blush Noisette, Reine des Violettes, and Zephirine Drouhin, then added New Dawn, Dortmund, and Golden Showers. The winter damaged some and killed others, including Knock Out roses, lavender, butterfly bush, boxwoods, and first-year perennials.
What do you grow? Pretty much what I started out with, but the vagaries of time and weather dictate what gets replanted. Daylilies, peonies, cranesbill, and iris flourish; lupine and delphinium do not. Color themes and flowers change from year to year. I mix perennials, annuals, and wildflowers together. New this year is a fenced [deer] vegetable garden.
Favorite plants? Lavender, foxglove, lupine, roses, cosmos, and coneflowers. I think blue salvia, both the annual and perennial, are great choices because they flower from spring to October and you can save on costs by interspersing the two.
Give us a tip: Because of last winter’s damage, I’ll wrap roses in burlap this fall and cover perennial beds with leaves and mulch.
Using a soaker hose to water zinnias reduces spots and withering. Delphiniums do not like clay, even if it’s amended. I’ve replaced some lavender with nepeta (catmint) and perennial salvia.
To make weeding easier, water the night before or weed after it rains.
And wear a hat and sunscreen to prevent skin cancer.
Hours spent gardening per week: In early May, three of us worked four to five days to get the garden in shape. I do about three hours of weeding a week and five hours of morning watering.
Annual expense: It depends on what’s happening. Two weddings in the garden that had particular color themes resulted in great expenses.
The best part of gardening is sharing with friends. I let some colorful weeds and wildflowers remain that are naturally happy, such as fleabane, New England asters, black-eyed susans.
Challenges: I’ve had both knees replaced due to arthritis, so kneeling is difficult. That reduces the time I can work in the garden and means I have to depend on outside help especially in spring. I’m planning to simplify by decreasing the amount of flowers without sacrificing overall beauty. That means choosing long-term replacements that are easier to tend. And recently, I’ve experienced the worst thing my garden ever gave me: a bout with poison ivy.
I’m proud of: The gazebos, trellises, and French-country playhouse built for me by my late father. Both parents gave me a love of nature and especially wildflowers. I’m proud of how my garden has evolved over 30 years. It’s always been the teacher, the open-air classroom that provides endless examples of beautiful specimens I can recreate and interpret with rare and vintage ribbons for my business. It’s been a source of entertainment, meditation, and learning for my whole family down to my seven grandchildren who hunt for Easter eggs, nests, garter snakes, bugs; who play hide-and-seek and learn to smell the roses!
Camela Nitschke is surrounded by ribbon in her studio that looks out onto her Monet inspired garden.
What do you get out of gardening? It’s calming: the quiet, bird songs, colors that change every day. There are lessons to be learned: to be patient and appreciate simplicity and the fact that gardens can regenerate. When I first saw the garden after this winter I thought, oh no! But because there are fewer plants, now I see more open space.
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