The charm of Marjory Yurek’s garden is as much about the collection of found objects she’s picked up along the road or bought for a song at the Salvation Army as it is about what grows there.
Gnarly old tree stumps, a 1950’s red metal lawn chair, teapots hung as bird feeders, a rusty iron headboard, and dozens more things are right at home among the flowers and vegetables.
Surprisingly, as you walk through, you don’t find yourself mentally picturing how the garden would look if about two-thirds of the objects were removed. Instead, the more you see, the more you appreciate how all the parts and pieces fit together, like details on an artist’s canvas, to create this playful spot.
Yurek’s garden at 908 Tearose Drive in Garden Springs is one of nine that will be open on the 2017 Open Gates to Bluegrass Living Garden Tour on June 3 and 4, sponsored by the Lexington Council Garden Clubs.
The tour funds scholarships and provides grants for myriad horticulture and conservation projects in Fayette County. These have included beautifying the entrance to the Hope Lodge patient center, the Henry Clay High School community vegetable garden, the Hope Center for Women community garden, and monarch way stations at Wellington Park and in the Stonewall neighborhood.
Yurek’s sloping backyard was “basically grass and a holly tree” when she moved into the Garden Springs neighborhood 11 years ago.
“I take a lot of classes at the extension service,” Yurek said. “I’ve learned so much” from Fayette County Cooperative Extension agent for horticulture Jamie Dockery. She belongs to two garden clubs, Scents of Joy and the Gardenside Garden Club.
The first of March, she retired after working part-time for 17 years in the cafeteria of Deep Springs Elementary School, which she can see from her garden.
Yurek’s main interest in the particular flowers, shrubs, herbs and trees she’s planted has been to provide food and habitat for birds, butterflies, bees and a host of other beneficial insects and pollinators.
She has bee balm, purple coneflower, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, penstemon, Shasta daisies, blazing star, baptisia and larkspur that reseeds every year. There’s not just one or two little plants of any of these, but big clumps. And Yurek doesn’t mind when plants travel, popping up here or there, in unexpected places.
In 2011, her garden was designated a Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. To receive that designation, a property owner has to develop a wildlife friendly landscape plan that includes a diversity of plants with as many native plants as possible, evergreen trees to provide nesting sites for cardinals and mockingbirds, water and even a rock pile for snakes.
Most recently, Yurek completed requirements to have her garden designated a monarch butterfly way station by Monarch Watch.
One requirement is to have two varieties of milkweed, which she has. Already several common milkweed plants are knee high in the garden, nearby is a patch of butterfly weed, frequently seen growing in pastures and unmowed fields in late summer with pretty orange flowers.
Feeding wildlife is a worthy endeavor, but it hardly takes a back seat to raising vegetables for her own good eating. Yurek grows an impressive variety of fruits and vegetables: raspberries, beans, corn, kale, tomatoes, beets, carrots, black-eyed peas, cucumbers (bush and climbing), broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, leeks, onions, Swiss chard, two kinds of lettuce and spring peas.
“Every year I grow something new,” she said. “This year it’s lima beans.”
When vegetables start coming in, “I get such a kick out of coming out here and picking my dinner,” Yurek said. She eats from her garden all summer long, cans and shares with friends.
For the past several weeks, working in the garden has been therapy because a close friend was killed in an automobile accident on May 4. Many of the rocks outlining beds in her garden and several stumps came from his farm in Owen County.
“He got me back into fishing and the outdoors. He’s the one who encouraged me to raise a vegetable garden and enter the Bluegrass Fair,” Yurek said. She now has a stack of ribbons from the fair, including three entries that won Best of Show.
“He was a good influence. I’m glad I’ve had this tour to get ready for, because the past 11 days have been hard,” she said.
Open Gates to Bluegrass Living Garden Tour
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. June 3, 1-5 p.m. June 4
Admission: $15. Tickets can be purchase at any of the gardens on the days of the tour.
Gardens open: 464 Lemon Drop Lane; 424 West Third Street; 164 East Bell Court; 137 Edgemoore Drive; 867 Edgewater Drive; 908 Tearose Drive; 1290 Standish Way; 550 Cave Spring Road in Jessamine County; 475 S. Ashland Avenue, the garden at Ashland Terrace.