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A bee-utiful garden
Bees help Elizabeth Waldron's gardens to flourish


April 2006

Purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susans line a path through the Waldron garden.

Blame it on the bees. If Elizabeth Waldron’s gardens look better than those of her neighbors, she can thank the several hives of honeybees that she’s allowing beekeeper Andy Hemken to keep on her Sussex property.

"I know that bees are important for pollinating plants and flowers and I wanted to increase my supply of vegetables and flowers," she says. "I had been looking for some time for someone to put hives on our property and maintain them and that’s what Andy does."

The yellow-and-black creatures must think they’re in bee heaven with the selection of flowering plants and vegetables that Waldron maintains on her 10 acres. When they’re tired of sipping nectar from her vegetable blooms, they can take their pick of the blossoms in her cutting garden, the perennial garden, the shade garden, on the woodland plants in her woods, even the cattails and Queen Anne’s lace that grow in the wetland area.

Waldron and her husband, John, moved to their Sussex home six years ago after spending 42 years in their former house. "Being a master gardener for 25 years, the move gave me room to experiment and do what I’ve always wanted to do," she says. "The old house had considerably less land. I needed more challenges."

A sign and pair of scissors propped in a metal pole invite visitors to enter the cutting garden for samples.

In her cutting garden, Waldron grows the traditional chrysanthemums and gladioli. "I like to make bouquets and give them away," she admits. Raspberry bushes have claimed their own section of the property, multiplying and scattering all over the place.

Knowing it’s better to give than to receive, Waldron tends to a perennial garden where she grows plants for the annual master gardener plant sale every year. The group can count on receiving a truckload of plants from her to sell. She will also sell extra plants, such as pearly everlastings for fun. "I put a small sign for the sales out front," says Waldron. "There’s just enough business that I enjoy it."

Some of her outdoor time is spent removing invasive species like garlic mustard from the 3 acres of woods so that the native species of trilliums and jack-in-the-pulpits can thrive. Trails throughout the woods are maintained for walking pleasure as well as getting vehicles in and out for removing downed or damaged trees. Part of keeping up the mulched trails involves removing the native species. Those plants are frequently "rescued" by people who are members of the Wild Ones, a natural landscaping group.

Waldron’s shade garden features hostas that she brought with her from her former home, varieties of calla lilies, ferns, ginger and pussytoes, a small, low-growing plant with whitish pink to yellow flowers. "I rescued the pussytoes from my daughter’s property," she says.

Tomatoes, green peppers and onions can be found growing in the vegetable garden. "I plant enough onions to last the whole winter season," she says. "I supply friends and neighbors with them."

A handmade gate leads to another area of the yard where a variety of birdhouses is a welcoming sight for feathered friends.

The property includes a ravine that was at one point a gravel pit. The area resembles an amphitheater and the couple is moving rock and terracing the sides to reclaim the area. The boggy, swampy wetland is located on a hill between the house and the woods and the Waldrons have to be careful not to develop it.

Future projects in the works involve increasing the size of the cutting garden, installing a pond and finishing off the remaining walls of the ravine.

The bees and the Waldrons co-exist harmoniously except when Hemken comes over to harvest the honey. "They do get very agitated and we can’t go outside at that time," says Waldron. "In fact they attack the house."

But she is very grateful for all of the honeybees’ efforts in her yard. "I’ve got such an appreciation for bees," adds Waldron. "They’re such a wonderful creature. That’s why I’ve always wanted to have them for my gardens."