Hard work and a belief that a garden is never really finished have given Traci and Tym Moszeter a new view of paradise.
The enthusiasm and energy of youth cannot be denied. An abandoned property overgrown with weeds and brush has become a charming country garden under the eagerness of its new occupants.
The lovely garden is just a short drive down a winding back road and up a gravel driveway. Don't worry about missing it, the entrance is clearly marked by a large wooden sign carved with the family names.
Flower beds grace the land surrounding the modern farmhouse and old outbuildings. The gardens stretch to a gentle stream on the far right and fence in the back area before the land drops down a steep hillside. All around, thick green grass fills in the between the raised garden beds.
The bucolic garden spot is the work of Traci and Tym Moszeter. In the short time they have lived on the farmland, they have created a natural space that seems like Paradise. Actually, they have uncovered much of the garden that had become overgrown after the property was vacated for several months.
"We moved here three years ago," Traci said. "When we first pulled into the driveway, the weeds were taller than I was. No one had been out here to do anything."
Hacking away the heavy growth just to get to the sidewalk leading to the house was one of the first chores. Some of the other tasks were more rewarding.
"The man who had lived here before us had spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars planting hundreds of perennials," Traci noted.
After his transfer to New Jersey, the property remained empty until the Moszeters moved in and discovered his flowering legacy.
"I was thrilled to have all these beds here," Traci said. She set out to clean up the original flower beds. Even though she knew a fair number of plants, some were unfamiliar to her. Being the hard worker she is, Traci yanked out plants by the dozens, sometimes inadvertently pulling up perennials. Fortunately, nature tends to find a way.
"Still this year, I have brand new things popping up," she said. "They hung in there from me ripping them out. Little surprises."
Other surprises were less welcome as they slithered her way -- snakes. Admitting to a phobia about snakes, she was even more determined to rid the place of the immense overgrowth.
"I just wanted it cleaned up," she declared. "I thought if I keep it cleaned, everything will stay away." Yet, snakes are a part of life in the country. In the end, the cleaned flower beds just make it easier for her to spot them.
Flights and smells
The garden tour started with a row of fragrant cedar trees that lines the road. When grass failed to grow after three attempts, twin flower beds were planted. Rocks, which Traci and a friend hauled in by hand, line the beds that are filled with shade-loving hostas, monarda, ferns, columbine and forget-me-nots. An unusually fragrant specimen, the licorice plant, is one of Traci's favorites.
"It amazes me that the plant smells truly like black licorice," she said. The bonus is its purple flowers.
A small metal dragonfly perpetually hovers over one plant. "Dragonflies are my favorite things," Traci said. "Last year we saw so many dragonflies out here. I don't know why that is."
Between the garden beds, decorative stepping stones made from cement embedded with chipped plates guide a visitor's step. "I had my kids help me make stepping stones," she said. "We spent a couple of afternoons out here."
Although the Moszeters have three children, Cassi, 9, Taylor, 7, and Lindsey, 4, it is their son Taylor who has truly taken to gardening.
"He has all his own tools, his own wheelbarrow, his own watering can and he has his own gloves," Traci said. He also has his own garden. Pansies, hyacinths and tulips from his grandmother grow in it. "Last year he had geraniums and snapdragons. He's so proud," Traci said. "He enjoys nature more than I expected him to."
Clearing the way
At one end of the row of trees a bench sits under a vine-draped arch. The small flower bed beneath it is green with hostas and ferns. "Actually, the gentleman that owns the property brought me a bunch of ferns last year," Traci acknowledged. "I'm so thrilled to see them coming up."
At the other end of the cedar trees, forsythia bushes once engulfed and hid a quaint garden gate.
"I just start whacking at the forsythia," she said. "One thing always leads to another. I didn't even know that little gate was there. I find great little treasures when I start clearing things out." She made a few repairs to the gate, attaching trowels that serve as gate handles, and now has a functioning garden gate.
Just past the garden gate, the land slopes toward a slow-moving stream. A gentle waterfall is heard before it is seen. The stream is outlined with large stones.
"This has been our project this year," Traci said. "I started hauling in rock this spring and lining it all out." More weeds and brush were removed from the area and the slope planted over in daylilies and groundcover. "Mainly for erosion control," she explained. "And because I think it's beautiful to look at. I still have some work to do. Hopefully, by next year it will be done. I've been working really hard on it."
Working hard seems to be Traci's maxim. Everything she tackles, she tackles with a vengeance.
"I can't stand to start something and have it takes months to finish," she asserted. "When I start something, I have to get it done, like within the month and that's a long time for me. I can't stop till I get done."
What Traci has in energy, she lacks in patience. Whether it is a pussy willow tree, Rose of Sharon bush or other perennials, she has trouble waiting for the garden to mature.
"That has been one of the things that's been hardest for me to do," she said. "I'm very impatient. And gardening takes such patience. It has taught me patience more than anything else could. I know that the plants that I'm planting this year won't look fabulous until next year."
Typical of her determined fashion, Traci had a shed relocated one afternoon because it was a "hiding place for snakes." She planted a circular flower bed at the back of the house where an oak tree had died. She transplanted a 15-foot redbud from the outer edges of the 212 acre property to an area close to the house. "I wanted a redbud tree so I went up and dug out a tree. That's what I do," she explained. "I've got all this beauty at my disposal."
More to do
I'd just about caught my breath when she headed toward a small barn with a sign overhead that read Paradise Gardens. "This barn was an old milk barn," she said. "The first thing I did was transform this into my little potting shed."
Stained glass windows donated by a friend hang against the back wall. Traci painted the floor and stenciled the shelves that Tym had built for her. The windows of the structure have been replaced.
"It's my own little space," she said. "I love it out here."
I noticed a sign on the wall of the potting shed: A true gardener is never satisfied.
"That is my motto," she told me. "I'm always changing something. As soon as I get to where OK, that's done, it's not done. There can be something else that can still be done with it.
"Gardening has truly changed my life," she said. "It's calming, and the rewards are incredible, that if you take care of something, it gets so beautiful. I just appreciate the beauty of it."
She has also been the recipient of the generosity of many gardeners.
"It just amazes me how friendly gardeners are," she said. "People are so willing to share their beautiful plants with me, which is priceless"
This tireless gardener is a ball of fire. It is hard not to be swept up in her enthusiasm. I thoroughly enjoyed her seemingly boundless energy and her willingness to show her garden to me.
Actually, she said it best, "Gardening -- there's no reason to keep it to yourself. It's better to share it."
The garden of Traci and Tym Moszeter will be one of the gardens featured on the Master Gardener Garden Tour on June 5 and 6. Tickets are available at area garden centers and the Douglas County Extension Office, 2110 Harper.
-- Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. You can send e-mail to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.