LEBANON, Pa. — Ina Block wasn’t interested in
gardening. She was content to watch the spreading yews
she and her husband planted take over the yard around
the house they built in Mt. Lebanon in 1964. But her
friend in Reading, Pa., kept giving her plants. First,
hosta, then irises and daylilies.
I always wanted a rock garden," she said.
she created one in her small front yard. The irises and
daylilies got the sun, hosta the shade on the side.
she just kept going, adding plants, adding gardens,
until there were no yews left and very little grass.
friends want to give me plants, but I’m out of
room," she said. "If something doesn’t come
back, I will take them."
she will know exactly what doesn’t come back. Since
2008, Block has kept track of her various gardens on her
computer. Each garden map shows a plant’s name and
where it was placed. Letters indicate colors — P for
pink, W for white, Y for yellow. It’s a practical,
almost scientific approach, yet the result is more art
was so pretty — even late in the season — that Block
was named the winner of the small garden category in the
Great Gardens Contest. Sponsored and judged by staffers
from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Botanic
Garden, the contest honors well-designed ornamental
gardens with interesting plants and sustainable
features, like the compost pit hidden on the side of
Block’s brick house. It’s one of the only places she
hasn’t planted something.
years ago, after taking a series of gardening classes at
Trax Farms in Finleyville, she knew what she wanted:
color and texture. Here is a partial list of plants that
have those qualities, from tall to small:
cherry, ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple, Florida dogwood,
Chinese fringe tree, blue Atlas cedar, ‘Fat Albert’,
Norway and bird’s nest spruce, bigleaf and climbing
hydrangea, 10 types of clematis, ‘South Orange
Perfection’ rose, Russian sage, hardy hibiscus, St.
John’s wort, ‘Chocolate’ Joe pye weed, peonies,
baptisia, Montauk daisy, coreopsis, asters, yellow
archangel, angelonia, Indian pink and many more.
herb garden features rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano,
mint and sage. Oh, and she had lots of parsley until the
resident groundhog munched it. She had goldfish and koi
in her pond until a blue heron devoured them.
whose garden was featured on the 2005 and 2017 Mt.
Lebanon Garden Tours, admits she will abandon plants if
they prove too tempting to wildlife. But she won’t
give up her blue flowers. True blue is a gardener’s
holy grail, and she has ‘Nikko Blue’ bigleaf
hydrangea, ‘William Kennett’ and ‘Blue Ravine’
clematis, hardy ageratum, ‘Rozanne’ cranesbill,
bellflowers and a very pretty annual, African violet (Streptocarpus).
She buys it from Trax or Bedner’s Farm &
Greenhouse in Cecil and uses it in all of her hanging
time of year, her favorite shrub is Persicaria. The
remains of its flowers jut out like little red springs
from the veined leaves. Hidden beneath them and peeping
from nearly every part of Block’s garden are ceramic
and metal frogs. Her grandchildren have found more than
100 tucked here and there. The gardener also has a dozen
cat figures and ceramic planters that she has made and
fired in her kiln.
calls her garden whimsical. We call it wonderful.
Whimsical, wonderful, let’s call the whole thing