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Cranberry Township gardeners will welcome almost all visitors

Leanne Marino shows her husband, Gerald Marino, both of Cranberry Township, how to deadhead flowers. They are hosting an upcoming South Butler Garden Club tour on July 23. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle 06/21/22

Joe and Melissa Joswiak and Leanne and Gerry Marino will be happy to have visitors come to their gardens. Just not deer; neither the Joswiaks nor the Marinos are very happy about the deer.

The homeowners will open their gardens as part of the Southern Butler County Garden Club’s 14th Annual Garden Tour on July 23. Several homeowners in the Cranberry Township area will share their garden design and answer questions.

The tour’s proceeds will fund the club’s horticultural programs in the community.

Joe and Melissa Joswiak, 164 Camp Tree Road, have lived for six years in the Camp Trees neighborhood of Cranberry Township.

Joe Joswiak, a Mars Middle School physical education teacher decided to build a garden for his wife for Mother’s Day.

He designed it so Melissa could look out of each window in the kitchen and see a different grouping of three to five plants framed in each window.

“I had a picture of a Cape Cod front yard,” he said. “I took that picture and bought the plants for Mother’s Day,” he said.

His hillside garden is dominated by perennials, hydrangeas, full-sun hostas and Shasta daisies.

He also planted 19 trees by hand on the steep hillside above his garden, although the19th tree planting also left him with a sprained ankle. Before suffering his injury, he managed to plant silky dogwood, radiant crabapple, kousha dogwood and harvest gold crabapple trees. He hopes as the trees mature they’ll provide some shade.

He inherited the green thumb from his father, Robert Joswiak.

“He was a carpenter and he had a Japanese garden. He put in the garden at Shadyside Hospital and was its caretaker,” he said. Joswiak said his father’s hospital garden won a 2001 Great Garden Award from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“Japanese gardens do not have color. They’re very neat. It’s more greens, reds, moss and rocks,” he said.

The Marinos moved into their home at 211 Timber Ridge Court four years ago and began working on improving their personal landscape two years ago.

Gerry Marino said their work included adding a patio and a pergola in the backyard, planting four Norway spruce trees and then creating an island on the hillside surrounding the trees.

“We used newsprint with mulch on top to kill the grass. We did not have to dig much,” he said.

Once the island was prepared, the Marinos planted it with plants that thrive under full sun: phlox, leucojum, dicentra, lavender, forsythia, irises and daffodils.

Leanne Marino said she transplanted the forsythia and daffodils from an adjoining lot that had yet to be developed and some rose verbena that she purchased at Monticello when the Marinos visited Thomas Jefferson’s home.

The Marinos said they chose plants that are generally considered to have a long life. All are perennials, but some perennials only last a couple seasons.

“Leanne tries to focus on ones that will likely last for more seasons,” said Gerry Marino.

They also selected plants that have a long bloom cycle during the season — i.e. blooms last for multiple months, not just short spurts of blooms and plants that attract pollinators.

Leanne Marino said she’s always experimenting, transferring plants from one spot to another.

She’s especially pleased at how her five evening primrose plants have expanded to be a fine perennial ground cover in one of her flower beds.

“I’m always experimenting with gardening. ‘I hope this thing works,’” she said. “I call it joyful maintenance. It brings me joy. I’m a self-taught gardener.”

Her husband said, “She’s constantly moving things around. I had to tell her that you reach a point where you stop moving everything.”

She said she has gotten some advice from her neighbor, Cassie Stopar, who’s also a member of the Southern Butler County Garden Club.

Gerry Marino wished he could get some advice on how to stop the depredations of the local deer population.

Both he and Joswiak have had to take measures to deter the four-footed raiders.

“I get up every morning at 5 a.m. and handle all the chores, moving the walking sprinkler system, deadhead the flowers. I do that three hours every day until 8 or 9 a.m.,” Joswiak said.

His most important chore, he figures, is spraying Liquid Fence Animal Repellent to keep the local deer population from treating his flower garden as an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord. The repellent has to be renewed often.

“I spray almost every night these days,” he said. “The daylilies would be eaten as soon as they bloom.”

“My biggest pests are slugs and deer. This year the slugs aren’t too bad,” Joswiak said.

Gerry Marino said he also uses Liquid Fence liberally. The deer come out of the woods above his backyard flower island.

“There seems to be 10 or 15 of them total,” he said. He sprays the repellent at least once a week to deter the deer.

Joswiak said doesn’t mind the work and the worry when he sees the result.

“It’s just so peaceful. It’s relaxing. It looks pretty. I like to take pride in the yard,” he said.

Leanne Marino seconds that sentiment. “I come out every day. It makes me happy just pulling weeds.”

Still, Joswiak doesn’t view their garden as finished. He’s toying with the idea of adding a water feature, saying he will also be making adjustments to the garden.

“Because I’m a teacher, I’m able to spend a lot of time in the summer to maintain it,” he said.

Bristol Joswiak, 10, and Melissa Joswiak walk through their backyard on Friday in Cranberry Township. The garden will be on display during the Southern Butler County Garden Club’s 14th Annual Garden Tour on July 23. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle
Melissa and Joe Joswiak and their daughter, Bristol, 10, pose in their backyard in Cranberry Township. The garden will be on display during the Southern Butler County Garden Club’s 14th Annual Garden Tour on July 23. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle
Leanne and Gerald Marino, of Cranberry Township, proudly show their landscaping in front of their home. They are hosting an upcoming South Butler Garden Club tour on July 23. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle 06/21/22