May 2017 Garden of the Month

May 2017 Garden of the Month

Garden Club Award of the Month—“Making it Pretty”

The Gettysburg Garden Club, through its Yard of the Month Committee, is pleased to present its Award of the Month for May 2017, to Joya and Bill Sterner of 99 Knoxlyn Road, Gettysburg.

Twenty years ago, Joya and Bill arrived at their present home. Their plan was to be nearer his parents’ home in Camp Hill, to be part of the many battlefield activities, and to retire after careers in the Navy. Joya, now an avid and astute gardener, persuaded Bill to help make their property the lovely place that it is. Teeny Bender, who nominated the Sterners’ property noticed,  “Joya is always working in her yard, making it pretty,”

In the beginning, Joya and Bill had two large oaks and a hawthorn tree removed from the front to allow for more sunlight. Next they added two large kidney-shaped berms, filling them with a charming spread of flowering and evergreen plants. In one is a mix of golden cypress, winterberry, Japanese maple, dwarf spruce, blue juniper, hosta, white and pink azaleas, peony, day lilies, corn flowers, poppies, and mums.  In the other is a mix of crape myrtle, Kousa dogwood, winterberry, dwarf spruce, blue juniper, anemone, iris, coreopsis, lupines, orange and pink azaleas, dahlias, cornflowers, poppies, and mums.

In the flower beds that anchor the house on either side of the front door, Joya has planted pink and white azaleas, daffodils, hyacinths, iris, oriental lily, geraniums, coreopsis, columbine, foxglove, allium, flox, coral bells, corn flowers, with hostas and creeping flox that soften the beds’ edges. A third, smaller bed, anchoring the lamp post, also contains creeping flox, as well as grape hyacinths, asters, and mums. The property’s mix of flowers creates extended bloom time, a goal of the Sterners.’ The blue of the cornflowers and the reds of the poppies, both soon to bloom, are favorites of the couple, reminding them of gardens in France and of their patriotic concern for veterans.

The symmetrical placement of the berms and the front beds is pleasing, but not of tight or overwrought appearance. Indeed, Joya says cheerfully that her planting philosophy for a favorite plant is “…to plant it in three places and see what it likes.” Bill likes the front garden design because it cuts down on his grass mowing.

The cerulean/turquoise blue of the front door and Adirondack-style chairs in the small pergola at the left of the house coordinate and delight one’s eyes, while the two blue-tinted  pots at the entry will soon be showing ornamental grass, coleus, and million bells.


The Sterners have changed a shaded, nut-filled front lawn into a charming, well-designed area of color and gardens. To them, being in retirement means that time once filled by career work now can be happily given to gardening. Besides careful composting, mulching, edging, soil testing, fertilizing, and treating with milky spore for Japanese beetle grubs, there are some plant challenges, such as the dahlia and canna.  But Joya and Bill both enjoy planning and working on ever more landscaping.

Last fall Joya planted 80 bulbs—tulips, daffodils, alliums—in one of the berms. Plants from neighbors and friends are always welcome, and Bill reports that Joya also enjoys visits to local flora emporiums, and “shopping” in garden catalogs. Joya says of their gardens thus far, “We plant what we like; we like to experiment with location and color.”

Their vision extends around both sides of the home to the wooded acre behind. To the right is a driveway leading to a separate garage in the rear, along which grows a soon-to-be colorful bed of double daylilies. Nestled next to the house in the rear are Joya’s two terraced “hospital beds,” where columbines, various seedlings, and “experimental” flowers are temporarily being cared for. At the other side of the house is a Rose of Sharon and beds of oriental lilies, iris, daffodils, blueberries, and flox.

Claiming space in the rear are peonies, hosta, lilies of the valley, iris, a Japanese rose, and a red maple that Bill transplanted from his mother’s garden, while daffodils and grape hyacinths have  naturalized in their woods. “In the works” are plans for a water garden with a Japanese bridge, an archway with roses and purple bean hyacinth vines. Of course, the Sterners won’t neglect “fairy gardens” tucked here and there perhaps amongst the portulaca, which Bill likes, or in the geranium flowers and foliage that Joya enjoys.

To a novice gardener, whether starting with a bare property or not, Joya and Bill advise restraint and not to do too much at once. Joya said, “…not to do anything the first year, until you see what you have.” Of course, they suggested taking advantage of help from generous neighbors and all the good resources available. Joya recommends sedum as an easy plant to begin with and which can fill in bare spots.

From their first snowdrops to their last chrysanthemums, Joya and Bill’s gardens will give pleasure to other gardeners as well. Their visions and well-thought-out design have made their property a special and beautiful place. Hunter, their dachshund and supervisor, would agree. Congratulations to Joya and Bill Sterner.

If you would like to nominate your property or someone else’s for the Award of the Month, please submit online.

Also, please check out our display this month at the Gettysburg Library focusing on daffodils, plus our club’s “Rags to Riches” entry in the York Flower Show.


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