June 2015 Yard of the Month
Donna & Chuck Criswell, 555 Millhimes Road
The Gettysburg Garden Club is thrilled to announce its June Award of the Month to Chuck and Donna Criswell, 555 Millhimes Rd.,Gettysburg. Their lovely home and 4 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and well and tended lawn speak for themselves.
This winner came by way of nomination from Nancy Spalding, Donna’s proud mother. Donna reports that whenever her mother visits, she always asks, “What have you done, added, or changed now?” because theirs is a work always in progress. Nancy describes the Criswell space as “….so pretty” and adds that “They put so much work into it.” But Donna says, “It is not work. We love it.” Truer words were never spoken! They are happiest when outside tending to their gardens.
Chuck, who works in construction, wanted a 1700’s period house, so he visited Williamsburg, studied the architecture, and literally built this perfect replica himself over a three year period. He also did all their landscaping described as “informal, loose, and easy care”with the same wonderfully contagious enthusiasm and dedication to getting it right!
Donna, a cafeteria manager for the school district, and more of a casual gardener, enjoys mowing and edging, and keeping Chuck supplied for the job at hand, whether it be bricking the driveway (current project) or setting in new plants. From the street, you first view several sections of cedar log riding rail fencing, that Chuck built to exact historic standards. As your eyes turn to the house, you notice several islands, informally but carefully placed, and beautifully landscaped. The smaller one, which surrounds a lamp post, features daylilies; with little sprite and winter sprite, plus Jim Dandy as pollinator, all politely vying for attention. The larger island is bilevel, with the lower level facing the house, for an unexpected “Ah!” when viewed from the front door. Here Chuck has thoughtfully added a forsythia bush; some Russian sage, yarrow, daylilies, bachelor’s buttons, mums, liriope, and caramel heuchera; plus a red hot poker, knockout rose, winter holly, and purple leaved sand cherry, for a lovely flower garden full of color. Closer to the house are gooseneck loosestrife carefully maintained to remain in check, cypress, viburnum (short tree), several more sand cherries guarding the front door, marissi, Little Henry, short growing forsythia, tricolored willow, and green owl juniper, among others.
A brick paver sidewalk leads from the front door to the driveway, and around to the back porch. From there you can either look out on a perfectly manicured lawn and more beautiful gardens (islands) or walk to Donna’s favorite spot….. a seat under the trees looking back toward the house, for the most beautiful view of all. The property slopes slightly down from the front to the woods in the back. Rather than formally terrace it, Chuck randomly placed huge boulders, as retainers, on the lower side of several long islands, with neatly mowed grass flowing between the islands. Designed in this way, the terracing goes unnoticed from the house. Each island is beautifully complete in itself, as well as perfect as part of the whole! There are Pinky Winky, bluebird, Annabelle, and carnival hydrangeas; popcorn plant; small clover; several size flox; candlestick pine; red and gold twig dogwood; Little Henry; purple heuchera; cone flower; purple leaf redbud; pumpkin St. John’s wort; ivory halo dogwood; sand cherry; and seven sons tree with its white flower and red bracts. The landscaping is designed such that each plant is perfectly placed for its needs, while also happily fulfilling the owners’ dreams with their form, color, and texture.
The finishing touches are provided by very carefully, yet casually, placed whimsy. There are iron pieces supporting a star, church bird feeder, gourd, and several colorful windmills; also a cement bunny, tiki head, and frog; a slate “Welcome” sign; some open jute twine balls hanging from the porch; and a very classy martin birdhouse that Chuck made. On the end of the garage, aligned with the roof angle, are three clay bottle bird houses. Clearly, everything has been carefully planned out by this couple.
When asked for advice to novices, Chuck quickly offered, “ Don’t try to do it all at once. Plant one section to start.” And, “Plant in threes.” For someone with a small wallet, he advised, “Plant auctions!” He and Donna attend often, and buy inexpensively! But, he cautioned, “You must know the going price of what you want to buy.” Also, keep an open mind. He often waits until the end, and buys from what remains, for an even better price.
The saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” clearly does not apply here, because even photographs are inadequate for this beautiful, flawless estate. As Chuck said when asked about his favorite spot, “I like it all.” Amen. Congratulations to this very enthusiastic, welcoming, and deserving couple.