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 In the midst of the pandemic, Mary Schwark, past president of the Troy Garden Club, believes her garden, although never finished, looks the best it ever has since she has had extra time to tend, plant and create.

In the midst of the pandemic, Mary Schwark, past president of the Troy Garden Club, believes her garden, although never finished, looks the best it ever has since she has had extra time to tend, plant and create.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Garden flourishes under extra TLC prompted by shutdown

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published July 21, 2020

 A new fountain, curving flagstone path, perennials, dwarf gingko and dwarf Japanese maple are new additions to Schwark’s front yard in Birmingham this year.

A new fountain, curving flagstone path, perennials, dwarf gingko and dwarf Japanese maple are new additions to Schwark’s front yard in Birmingham this year.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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TROY/BIRMINGHAM — Birmingham resident Mary Schwark, past president of the Troy Garden Club, like many, had extra time on her hands during the pandemic shutdown.

While the Troy Garden Club made the tough decision to cancel the annual garden walk, a summer staple for over 40 years, Schwark put the finishing touches on updates to her new front-yard garden, steps away from foot traffic on Old Woodward Avenue.

Last year, Beverly Hydo, the garden walk chairwoman, explained that the garden club members begin to look for gardens to feature on the next year’s walk as soon as the yearly walk is done.

Gardens are nominated by the public, and a member of the Troy Garden Club evaluates them, Hydo said.

Schwark said that all the gardeners that were on this year’s canceled roster agreed to be featured on the 2021 walk.

According to the Troy Garden Club Fact Sheet for the 2021 walk, the Troy Garden Club, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was founded in 1971 and will celebrate its 50-year anniversary in September 2021.

It states that the Troy Garden Club has won state and national awards from the Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association in honor of the excellence of the club’s garden walks.

The garden walk is the club’s principal annual fundraiser, from which donations are made at the local, regional, state and national levels, the fact sheet states. The 2019 garden walk generated net funding of over $8,000 for distribution in 2020 to more than 30 organizations and individuals in support of their horticultural programs and educational pursuits.

Even though Schwark admits her garden will never be finished, she said that, this year, her garden looks the best it ever has.

“I’ve created what my husband, Bill, calls a park in our front yard, complete with a new fountain, a curving flagstone path, lots of perennials, a dwarf gingko and a dwarf Japanese maple,” Schwark explained in an email.

“We live just a couple of short blocks from downtown Birmingham, so there’s lots of foot traffic. My front and back gardens are tiny, but with many details, and I do 95% of the work myself.”

The curved walkway in the Schwark’s front yard was installed last October, the fountain in early June. After that, she “filled in the rest.”

They’ve lived in the home, built in 1917 or 1918, which they have renovated and expanded, since 1997. She’s been working on her garden ever since.

Schwark said she waters “the new part in front” every day, but hasn’t used any fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides yet this year.

She said she spends just under an hour and a half watering her garden each day.

Schwark said that while she was outside pulling weeds the morning of July 9, a woman crossed the street to speak with her.

The woman said, “Your garden is so lovely.  It’s a little Eden,” Schwark said.

“I thanked her profusely, and when I went back into the house, I related to Bill what she had said,” Schwark said in her email. “In that moment, I understood part of the reason why I’m gardening like a crazy person. As I said to Bill, it’s so nice to be able to make people happy with our gardens.”

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