The gardening life

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester master gardener Jackie Marion tends to some of the plants in her former Columbus Street gardens.

Take a walk through gardens cultivated by Canal Winchester resident Jackie Marion and you feel transported to a peaceful place where your eyes, ears and soul can take a break from the cacophony of life.

While the hosta-filled backyard landscape on Columbus Street is a refuge from the outside world, Marion will be the first to tell you it takes a lot of work to create and maintain a lush sanctuary.

“I have been a gardener since 1972 and come from a family of gardeners, including my grandmother, mother and two sisters,” said Marion, a certified master gardener since 2011. “It started for me when I owned a home in Clintonville, accelerated in Bexley and went crazy when I moved back to Canal Winchester in 1995 and bought a huge property on the old canal.”

She added over 18 tons of stone to the spacious backyard and at one time planted over 80 pots of annuals. After visiting Monet’s gardens one year, Marion planted 15 flats of blue and yellow flowers in the front yard. She said while it was beautiful, it was also an exhausting endeavor that she never repeated.

“I love green foliage and perennials and plant few annual flowers now,” said Marion. “When I do plant annuals, I plant the old favorites—marigolds, impatiens, ageratum, begonias, phlox and add lots of coleus.”

The first thing Marion ever grew was different kinds of daffodils. She still loves the bright intricate flowers, along with their spring time companion, tulips, and while she does not like digging holes for the bulbs, admits the results are worth the effort.

Currently blooming in her garden is love in a mist, yellow sundrops, iris, yarrow, bee balm, spider wort, thyme and different varieties of sedums. Shrubs and trees including dogwood, Japanese maple, lilac, viburnum, holly and nine bark, along with grasses, evergreens, smoke tree and a “gazillion” hostas also populate the property.

“I also grow plants for butterflies and bees. I am a big supporter of bee hives in the community,” Marion said. “It is estimated bees pollinate about 30 percent of our crops. I wish our city was more lenient to bee hives and I have lobbied for that.”

When asked what she felt was the most common mistake made by gardeners, she said planting sun loving plants in the shade and shade loving plants in the sun, along with not providing the proper soil amendment.

If Marion could only plant just one type of flower, she said she would be incredibly stressed and probably plant nothing. When the same question turned to vegetables, the answer was quick—tomatoes.

“I have a friend that supplies me every year with an heirloom tomato called ‘Miller,’” said Marion. “It was named for a farmer who gave seeds to a friend who gave seeds to a friend, etc. We almost lost them one year, but saved seeds came through.”

To be designated a master gardener, Marion attended 8 to 10 weeks of classes about a variety of topics related to gardening and then annually contributed to the community through actual garden service and education.

“I am on sabbatical right now,” Marion said, “but the past few years I have been extensively involved in restoring the gardens at Wagnalls, including the construction of a new Martin house. Probably the most rewarding experience of my life was working with adults with developmental disabilities in Fairfield County. A group of master gardeners helped them develop a micro green growing business and a farmer’s garden and market. Both projects are ongoing with master gardeners very involved.”

While her lush, established gardens on Columbus Street will soon fall under the care of a new owner as Marion transitions to a smaller home and garden in Canal Winchester, she plans to continue to use her skills to create other islands of peace and tranquility.

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