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Published: Wednesday, 5/26/2010

Betty Farison: Gardening on the front lawn

Name: Betty Farison, retired from bookkeeping, greenhouse and flower-shop work, living in the Old West End.

Garden Specs: My entire front lawn, 30 feet by 50 feet, has been replaced with bulbs, perennials, a weeping birch, and a pink dogwood. The backyard, 30 feet by 60 feet, is an informal English garden where everything seems to get along together.

When did you start gardening? In 1927, I was 6 years old and worked alongside my mother, who was a botanist and teacher as well as a gardener. She loved wildflowers and at the beginning of the spring we were off into the woods. I was raised on a farm south of Napoleon during the Great Depression. We had no money, but the family always had a garden and raised tomatoes, strawberries, melons, pickling cukes, sweet corn, beans, alfalfa, and popcorn. We had cows, pigs, chicken, and work horses and didn't need to rely too much on the rationing stamps.

What do you grow? Tree peonies (they're woody), clematis, perennials, knock out roses, spring bulbs accented with annuals to add color. I've got more than 100 hostas in small pots, and azaleas and ferns in containers around the patio.

What do you get out of it? Recreation and relaxation along with an outlet for my creativity.

Hours spent gardening: 10 to 12 hours a week during the spring; 20 to 30 hours a week during the summer months.

Annual expense: $300 to $400.

I'm proud of my collection of tree peonies, they're an oriental plant. And over the years I've collected a wide variety of plants so I have a continuous progression of blooms from April to October. I have quite a few primroses, one of the first things to flower as soon as the snow goes. And I pot up perennials and sell them at the Old West End festival.

Challenges: I'm fortunate in that I always bend from the waist so I don't have to get up and down. But I have a pinched nerve that makes it difficult to walk and I have to sit down and rest.

Most used tool: A hand trowel which I use for planting, potting, and transplanting.

Word to the wise: If something dies, that's a good place to plant something else.

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