A garden for all seasons

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

For three seasons of the year, Gary Ashcraft and his family admire the view from their screened-in back deck. Overlooking beds full of continuous spring and summer blooms, a variety of trees that shade their yard and a lake that attracts geese, ducks and herons, the family feels like it's visiting a park instead of sitting on the porch.

Ashcraft likes that his property, in Meier Lake Estates north of Jackson, resembles the views from a park or nature reserve. After 27 years in the military and multiple moves, he wanted a place where he could set down roots in all senses.

"Every time we got the yard going, we had to move," he said.

Some of the plants moved, too, but few made the transition well. As a person who has always enjoyed being outdoors, having space to garden was crucial for Ashcraft when he decided to retire.

With its vast lawn and continuous beds on 1 1/4 acres, maintaining his property gives Ashcraft plenty to do. There's always weeding or grass to be mowed and new plants to add or relocate.

But Ashcraft certainly doesn't mind the labor.

"It's just a hodgepodge I've been working on for 10 years," he said. When he bought the property and began building, he said he started with a field and a couple of trees.

Ashcraft first decided to visit the Missouri Department of Conservation to buy some trees. There are oaks and willows, dogwoods and tulip poplars, cedar and mimosa trees on the grounds.

Rose of Sharon, crape myrtle and hibiscus also fill in the landscape. Flower beds are scattered about.

When designing the beds, Ashcraft wanted to make certain that the space would be attractive from a distance. He's got one in a half-moon shape, and another is shaped like a heart. Both are filled with flowers that offer continuous blooms: Easter lilies, phlox, columbine, azaleas and Dutch iris. Cannas and day lilies also fill in the spaces. Vinca and pampas grass abound.

Most of his plants were gathered from friends and family. He gladly accepts cuttings and shelters new plants until they thrive. He shares the abundance with friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Nearly every year, he splits his cinnamon ferns and still has more than enough for his own shade beds.

In the garden, there's always work to be done. A cedar tree needs to be transplanted. Hostas split and moved to spots under the shade trees. Fall means digging up cannas and trimming hedges.

Ashcraft has future plans for pathways, arches and trellises throughout the yard to link the beds and garden areas. His work is "just something to be proud of," he says.

He enjoys the mums and the color they bring to a fall garden, but he said the vibrant blooms of pink crape myrtle are hard to beat too.

"When people come here I want them to experience different trees and flowers," he said.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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