Monday, January 5, 2015

A Great Beginning January 1, 2015

What a way to start the New Year. PBS Scenic Spots featured our Smiley Park Children's Garden on WGBU PBS on New Years day. This past summer, their host Kathleen Phipps, and film crew visited our garden to tell our story. They captured the garden in the finest manner.

We are very proud of this garden, as well as the whole community takes pride in what we were all able to do by working together. It has been a community effort, so they were the integral part of its existence. We are going to re post the blog we did about that special day that they showcased our wonderful garden.Take time to read the blog and click on the "Scenic Spots" link to view the story as they saw it through their lens.

Watch Scenic Stops: People.Stories videos on demand. Stream full episodes online. This weekly show, explores what's off the beaten path in our region. What's...

Children's Garden - PBS 2014

Around the middle of May we received a call from Kathleen Phipps from WBGU-TV.  She is the hostess of "Scenic Stops" for this Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).  She called in regards to doing a segment featuring our Children's Garden here in Van Wert, OH.  After all, they are Emmy nominated for their work so, why not be flattered for being chosen for one of their shows.

The word is now out, so the preparations begin. Ruth Ann Covey is in charge of the gardens, so she starts making her ever famous list of what needs to be done in preparation for show time.  The date was set for June 26 at 11am. It has been raining a lot, so the weeds are one step ahead of us.  Ruth Ann is very organized and recruited volunteers from the community along with the Master Gardner's to ready the gardens. The end of June is perfect timing because the gardens will be in full bloom.

Around the World
There was painting to be done and extra planting. The Rainbow Garden and the Serenity Garden Tori Gate was painted.  The flower art piece was repaired and painted as well as the Children Around the World were freshened up. Patti the Master Gardner, Altha and Andy at the entrance gate, have been given a new coat of paint in order to meet our guests.

The day before the filming, Hearth and Home Assisted Living brought out their residents so they could release Monarch and Painted Lady Butterflies in the Butterfly House.  Everyone loves  butterflies  There is something magical about them. Several of the visitors in the garden also had the opportunity to release some of the butterflies.  The house is well supplied for PBS and you.

Butterflies from Florida

Marty, Hearth & Home


Children in the Garden

Monarchs and Milkweed

The day has arrived. There is new signage in the Fossil Garden.  Just think some of these fossils are over 440 million years old and are all from Ohio.

Dinosaur Garden

Now we meet our team from WBGU-TV. It takes approximately 3 hours of filming for a 15 minute segment.  Interviews were obtained from Bryce Campbell and Lilly Good who are active youth in the gardens. Ruth Ann spoke on education, Sue on the city parks and Louise on about how the garden came to be and what it does for the community.


It was a special day for all of us. It was nice to know that WBGU had heard about us and found our gardens worthy of filming a show for their viewing audience. It will air sometime in November and  we will alert the local media once we are notified when it will be broadcast.

Ruth Ann

Sue and Kathleen

None of us felt like TV stars, but just in case, we will be waiting to be discovered.  It was a fun experience and hope to put Van Wert on the map with it's award winning garden.  We invite you to come and enjoy the gardens with us.

Kathleen and Louise

Sue & Louise

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Famous Red Kettle

Spending time on the internet often is a great source for information and sometimes can be just a lot of fluff. One evening I received a private message from a Facebook friend, Lois Gehres, asking if I would like to be a bell ringer for The Salvation Army Red Kettle project. Lois is one of the coordinators. I jumped at the opportunity. This was on my bucket list and I found this a fulfilling experience.

I could hardly wait until my appointed time. I even laid out my warm clothes the night before. I got out my cuddle duds, my Alaskan fur boots and my snowman scarf and mittens. The day was in the 20's and there was light snow. It was perfect! I was assigned a 9-10 AM shift at our local WalMart. It wasn't real busy at that early hour. Being a people person, I find people very interesting. I loved every minute of it. My replacement was right on cue. Our local Major Art Barter stopped to introduce himself. He was delightful. The hour went very fast. I hope to be asked again next year.

Major Arthur Barter and JD Brewer

Red Kettle History

The Salvation Army was established in England in 1865 by itinerant Methodist minister, William Booth and his wife Catherine. It was in 1891 that a Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee became aware of the poor in San Francisco that were going hungry.  Seeing this he was compelled to give free meals on Christmas for those in need. There would need to be funds to finance this. He laid awake at nights praying how he would be able to feed upwards of 1000 people. He remembered in his sailor days in Liverpool, England at Stage Landing where boats came in, there was an iron kettle called " Sampson's Pot" that people threw in coins to aid the poor. This inspired Captain McFee to place a pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing. Beside the pot he posted a sign that read, "Keep The Pot Boiling". Doing this he met his goal and fed the needy for that Christmas.

Six years later this idea spread from the west coast to Boston, Massachusetts. Nationwide there were 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy. By 1901 Kettle donations in New York City provided sit down dinners at Madison Square Garden. This custom continued for many years.

Today in the United States assistance is given to four and a half million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas Season. Captain McFee's Kettle project spread through out the United States and spread to many foreign countries. Through this project the Salvation Army Kettles allow this origination to engage in helping those who might otherwise be forgotten. One particular example is supplying Christmas for children.

Bell ringers average $30 per hour. In 2 hours bell ringers can raise enough money to feed a family of four with groceries for a week. This is amazing.

If you have loose change or money to share, drop it in the Kettle. It is a very worth while organization to support. Put some of your extra change in your coat pocket and excite a bell ringer.

New Location

Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

   Merry Christmas


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Smiley Park Children's Garden - Second Season

Master Gardeners and Community Volunteers cleaned and tucked away the Children's Garden for another successful season. Painting, pruning, trimming and needed repairs were completed for another year. There were many visitors and the Growing For The Hungry project was a success.

Three years ago Jim Clay approached Sue Heppeard and I suggesting the garden needed to extend its season. He and his family wanted to light up the garden for the Christmas Season. Everyone loves Christmas, so they set about outfitting the garden to look like a Christmas Fairy Land. This was all new to us, so we had no idea what to expect. A few other supportive community people got on board. DeShia furnished hot chocolate and cookies. There was Santa and Mrs Claus and of course there were Carolers to add to the festivities.

The magic hour for the opening was the eve before Thanksgiving at 6:30pm. By 6pm people were lined up at least a block long. Now what do we do? We had to call local law enforcement to direct traffic and help with the parking. Needless to say the hot chocolate and cookies did not last long. This was way beyond our expectations. It was estimated at least 1000 people turned out for the opening.  People were thrilled and so were we. The park was lighted every night until New Years.  Santa was there most evenings until he had to do his deliveries on Christmas Eve.

Year two, and with the previous success, we were better prepared. As this community is well noted for giving support, they contributed funds and gifts to come to Santa's aid. The Girl Scouts were well prepared with hot chocolate and cookies. This year was even bigger than the year before.The Clay Family spent a lot of time preparing for this event. A new tradition has been born.

The Clays started preparing the Christmas Garden in October this year. Keep this on your calender to start your Christmas Season. Several new things have been added and more lights have decked out the gardens, if that's even possible! The lights are scheduled to be turned on November 26th at 6:30pm. If you are in the area join us as the Children's Garden is transformed for it's second season as the Children's Christmas Garden.

Sue & Louise

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The End Is Near

First Snow
Can you believe we received our first snow on October 31st, so does this mean we will have 31 snows this winter? Now I am a lover of winter and snow, but I might just tire of it after number 24. What I do like about northwest Ohio, is the four season change. I don't like grey days and extreme heat, but I can adjust to what ever it is because one thing for sure it will change.

We have been preparing our gardens for winter over the last three weeks. We have been cutting plants back and deciding what ones we will prune next spring. Some summer bulbs need dug, like cannas and bring in planters that won't survive our harsh winters.

The fall color has been magnificent this year. Temperatures  have been just right to give us the big show. We do a lot of hand raking of the leaves, but we also mulch with the good old John Deere. We don't compost with them and I know we should. I do amend my soil in the spring with composted manure. For fertilizer this year I totally used Annie Havens Moo Poo Tea. My gardens have never been more beautiful.

Fallen Leaves

Today our Weeping Mulberry dropped its leaves in one mass drop. It made it easy to clean up. I would guess the snow and the drop of temperatures stepped up the process. Our Cleveland Pear hasn't had its color change. It is one of the last to loose its leaves. Now I really don't want to mislead you , but I do have this wonderful lawn boy (Fred) that takes care of cleaning up the lawn. I take care of the flowers, because he can be a little aggressive and some things may be gone forever. We each have passions, his is a beautiful lawn and it is a perfect frame for my gardens. There is a science of having a beautiful lawn. Properly attended grass will overcome weeds. Love walking barefoot. It is soft and feels so cool to your feet. He fertilizes the last time around the first of November.

Weeping Mulberry

Artistic Form
We have been cleaning our tools and equipment to put into storage. The garden art that needs to get out of the freezing temperatures is put away. We have drained the garden hoses and have had the irrigation system blown out. The snow blower has been put in position for quick access.

It has been a wonderful summer. We seemed to get rains just when we needed them. Not the case for some of you gardeners. Our farmers are harvesting a bumper crop. God is good. As we wrap up another year let us count our blessings. Looking forward to a rest, but will be looking for the first signs of spring before we can blink an eye.

That's a Wrap
Sue and Louise