Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Landscaping the Grounds of Pearl S. Buck Birthplace

It's Spring, so things have started to bloom around the birthplace.  I'm fascinated by the different pace at which this happens, especially by the large maples in front of the house, which are already green and bushy at the top, but only starting to reveal their leaves on the branches closer to the ground. I suppose that's what happens when I tree grows so tall and majestic. Higher branches reach up for sun, lower ones are blocked by their shade.

That's not all that is changing on the grounds of the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace, where we're giving Mother Nature a little assistance.  If you stop by and walk around the back of the Stulting House, you'll see that our large Good Earth Garden has been "plowed, disked, and tilled," and tomorrow students from Hillsboro Elementary School will come to the Birthplace to do some planting.  Let's hope the garden is as fruitful as last year, when at least 600 lbs of produce were donated from it to local food pantries.  We hope to meet or exceed that amount again this year.  The gardens are a valuable teaching tool, that make the grounds more enticing and appealing.  It's gratifying they can also meet this real need.

Ready for planting
Inspired by the success of the Good Earth Gardens, this year our efforts will continue into a major landscaping renovation, likely to continue over 2 or 3 growing seasons.  Led by Sue Groves, a board member who has just taken on the tasks of Interim Executive Director, a team met yesterday to begin planning for the project.

Nora Workman, Liana Shrader, Sue Groves and Jay Boggess
among the fruit trees.  
I am new to the area, and though my interest in gardening is great, my experience as an adult is limited to rooftops and window boxes.  So it was fascinating to me to listen to this group composed of a landscape architect, knowledgable locals and Master Gardeners reel off the names of plants and which ones probably won't do well, even though they thrive just 20 miles down the road.

I hadn't realized there's so much to consider when landscaping a historic property that's also in active use. How historically accurate are you trying to keep it?  To when exactly?  Whose memories are more accurate?  Has the climate changed? Can you even grow today what they used to grow then?  Is the landscaping suitable to the envisioned use of the property?  Can you afford the plants you want?  What about the materials?  What future construction is envisioned?  Do your plans interfere with that?  There's no sense planting trees where you might build later.
Trish McNaull, Debra Davis, and Ginger Must

These questions are perplexing, but they made the meeting interesting.  It was a creative bunch that that gathered to mull over photos and diagrams, but they really came alive as we left the table and began walking the grounds.  As the group talked I could imagine gardens that would be rustic, yet refined, a beautiful location for receptions and other events, yet still be useful places to walk through and teach about plant species of West Virginia, the plants in the writings of Pearl S. Buck, the role of gardening in the settler culture of West Virginia, herbal medicine, and several other topics.  I'm excited to see how it develops.

Barbara Tuckwiller, Liana Shrader, Trish McNaull,
Debra Davis, Ginger Must, Sue Groves,  and Jay Boggess 
If you’d like to find out more, or are interested in making a donation of your time, plants, materials, or much needed funding, we hope to hear from you.  We'll be releasing a list of the plants we need soon.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact us at or (304) 653-4430

1 comment:

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