It’s always a good sign to pull into a gardener’s driveway to see flats of plants scattered in one corner. At the time of my visit, Karen Lampman was preparing for the Wexford Garden and Pond Tour. She has one of 10 gardens highlighted this year.
A row of intense red heuchera flowers lines the walkway to the house along with mature shrubs and an amazing display of unique espalier southern magnolias.
“I grew up in the country and my parents were vegetable gardeners,” she remembers fondly. “We loved nature.”
After retiring, Lampman focused purely on things she loves, namely gardening.
“I get to go back and do things I have a passion for,” she adds.
Lampman took the master gardener class from Penn State and went to work on the garden.
“I enjoy beauty, flowers and nature,” she adds smiling.
She’s the architect of the garden but gets help from her husband with some of the labor. Sitting in their custom-made kitchen, Lampman explains their relationship when it comes to meals.
“He’s into gourmet cooking, I haven’t cooked since 1980," she says with a laugh. “I do all the clean-up.” Then she reveals two dishwashers, as hubby uses every pot in the house for his creations.
The bones of the garden are built around the foundation of mature shrubs and trees. A contorted white pine is a star along with a tri-colored beech, ‘Vanilla Twist’ redbud, weeping cherry, dogwoods, roses and much more fill the garden.
Ephemeral perennials create another layer in the landscape.
“There’s color-changing all the time, and there are always new things coming up, and we lose old things.”
On this day, huge pink peonies are fading away as hydrangeas are gearing up to put on their show. Hellebores line a woodland trail and a water feature offers a great place for the birds to take a break.
It’s her use of annuals though that takes this place to another level. Mixing colors, texture and height provides the icing on the cake in this garden.
When walking through the landscape, the call of a wide variety of songbirds fills the air. The soothing songs can be heard from every corner. It’s another passion that Lampman might enjoy as much as the garden itself. “It’s very relaxing and enjoyable for me,” she says of the birds.
She even took a part-time job at Wild Birds Unlimited, which she enjoys. “I don’t even know if it pays for all of the bird feed I use,” she says laughing.
Bluebirds have nested on the one-acre property and she’s hoping a screech owl will take up residence in a box she erected.
The herb garden is filled with lots of deep green, fragrant basil along with sage, oregano, thyme, tarragon, chives and a little lettuce. It’s all fresh fodder for the chef of the family.
Like many gardeners, Lampman has to battle the deer since her property backs up to North Park. Some plants like a ‘Pinkie Winky’ hydrangea are surrounded by netting. Her husband does his best to spray Liquid Fence and other repellents religiously. They also use deer tape, a barrier ribbon, around parts of the property that works to keep the deer at bay. Another tactic is to grow things the deer don’t prefer like cannas, begonias and many other varieties.
One year, Lampman had sweet potato vine hanging down, just at the right height for the deer to enjoy.
“I learn as I go,” she says. “What things I’m willing to battle the deer on and what things just aren’t worth it,” Lampman adds with a laugh.
Her sister, Anita Donovan, accompanied us through the garden on this visit. When asked about the colorful displays, she says, “I love it, my mother was a gardener, and she loved her flowers.” Looking over at Lampman, Donovan added, “She took after Mother. She’s the one the green thumb.”
“My mother would love to come here,” related Donovan. “We always say, she’s up there in heaven looking down on us because that was her love. That was always their shared interest as far as the passion that went into it.”
Lampman’s work continues, as she has begun an expansion in the back of the property. She hopes one day to convert it to a fenced-in themed hosta garden. Since deer love hosta, the fence is a must.
There’s no kitsch in the front of the house, but the entire back garden is filled with what Lampman calls “frog whimsy.” There are frog planters, frogs carrying plants, even dancing frogs under the peonies. “I just think they are fun,” she says happily.
As Lampman continues to put the final touches on her garden, she doesn’t feel any stress getting ready for the tour.
“There’s always work to get things ready," she says. "Things are never done. We just enjoy sharing the beauty with others. This is our concept; people have other ideas.”
She’s hoping visitors will get the same thing she does out of time in her garden.
“One day I was sitting on the deck, listening to smooth jazz along with the sounds of nature and I thought, I am in heaven of earth,” she said with a smile.
After a two-year hiatus, the Wexford Garden and Pond Tour is back on Saturday, July 10, 2021, highlighting 10 great gardens. Tickets are $35, all the details are here. Portions of the proceeds go to clean water projects in Uganda thru CEED, as well as a girl’s school and skill center in Pakistan.