When an avid gardener gets the opportunity to start from scratch in a new location, it's always interesting to see what happens. Rose Romboski took that challenge when she started over on a half-acre lot in Cranberry five years ago. Her new creation worked out so well that she was selected as the large garden winner of the PG Great Gardens Contest, fall/year-round category.
Mrs. Romboski, who as a child lived above her parents' funeral home in Coraopolis, became interested in flowers early on.
"I was always amazed by the beautiful floral arrangements in the funeral home. I'd ask my Dad after the funeral was over and the families would take the arrangements they wanted if I could 'pick flowers to make bouquets.' Of course he said yes because those flowers get thrown away. I would make my own arrangements going from basket to basket picking flowers, even taking them to school for my teachers."
When she and her husband, Larry, purchased their first home in 1995, it was partially landscaped. But she saw potential for a shade garden in the back of the property. As that garden grew, she became more interested in gardening and eventually completed the Penn State Master Gardener program in 2000.
"That first garden was nice," Mrs. Romboski says, "but what I really wanted was to design everything from scratch and have the house feel like it's getting a 'hug' from the gardens around it. So when Larry and I decided to build our current home, we thought of all the details, from the beds that surround the entire house, meandering sidewalks that connect the front yard to the back, to the 51/2-foot stone wall that runs the entire length of the backyard. I literally drew out what I envisioned and worked with the contractors to incorporate the sidewalks, walls and garden beds with the construction of the house."
Mrs. Romboski credits builder Wayne Henchar with having the same vision she did when he constructed the lovely stone walls that run along the back of the property.
All the plants are new, except for some hostas that she brought from her former home. Bob Yates of Pride Nursery was instrumental in helping her select some of the large trees and shrubs. Michele Morgan of Nature's Reflection in Middlesex installed the pondless waterfall. True to its name, it holds water in a large underground reservoir.
The plantings include a diverse list: 'Walker's Low' catmint, 'Knockout' roses, Shasta daisies, coreopsis, 'Duchesse De Nemours' white peonies, 'Colette' climbing rose, 'Polish Spirit' clematis and 'Limelight' and 'Annabelle' hydrangeas. Wooly thyme acts as an accent throughout, tumbling over the stone walls. Trees include Sweet bay magnolias, stewartia and three Japanese cherry trees given to the couple as a housewarming gift. There is also many conifers tucked throughout for winter interest.
On one wall of the home is an apple espalier she found at a box store. This year it is bearing fruit, although Mrs. Romboski says she has no idea what type of apple it is because the tag was not on it when she purchased it. Her husband helped her cable it to the home after he got over his initial horror at drilling holes in the brick for the eyebolts.
She says the garden is a joint effort. Her husband takes care of the mowing, and their Labrador retriever, Ashton, provides companionship. It is clearly a source of pride that she maintains the property without outside help and still has time to be active in the community. She is president of The Southern Butler County Garden Club, where she is happy "to be surrounded by a wonderful group that loves gardening as much as I do."
Walking through her serene garden, one notices the attention to detail and obvious love that has been lavished on the landscape. Accents, such as a custom trellis made for the couple by Iron Eden, a bubbling fountain and small pieces of sculpture are thoughtfully chosen and placed.
Mrs. Romboski says she does not seek out unusual varieties of plants. Rather, she chooses plants that please her and that she can cut and turn into bouquets, so the landscape also serves as a large "cutting" garden.
"I guess my design aesthetic is to be surrounded by the beauty of gardening. No matter what window in the house you peek out of, you can see a garden and therefore something beautiful."
Garden editor Susan Banks: email@example.com or 412-263-1516. First Published October 20, 2012 4:00 AM