Looking across her homemade garden, complete with a waterfall and pond surrounded by flowers, trees and berry bushes, Sharon Stiller remembers what came before.
"When I first moved here, I had nothing but weeds."
Inside her Seven Fields house a sign reads: "God made rainy days so gardeners could get their work done."
Although her work is never done, Ms. Stiller's garden is one of six open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today for the Southern Butler County Garden Club's summer garden tour. Tickets, $20, are available at the Cranberry Municipal building from 9 to 10 a.m. today.
Ms. Stiller's garden is centered upon the waterfall and pond, where pink foxglove and other flowers cluster alongside the stones, goldfish swim in the water and dragonflies zip through the air. On the back porch, butterflies buzz among the flowers.
"They are beautiful. They really are," she muses.
Next to the pond is a gazebo where visitors can sit and watch the show. On a fence, Ms. Stiller grows roses, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.
"The outside is like another room of the house," she says.
Just as people put pictures on their walls to decorate their interiors, she plants flowers to enhance her outdoor room.
At the back of her property is what Ms. Stiller calls her "secret garden," which has mostly shade plants. Its entry features poppies, deep purple salvia and a weeping redbud tree that has lavender blooms in the spring.
Stepping from the street into her backyard "is like walking into a forest," Ms. Stiller says. Someone driving by the front of the house would never know that an intricate garden lies beyond.
Ms. Stiller, who is originally from Chicago, moved to Seven Fields in 1988 after she joined United Steelworkers' Women of Steel initiative. She was assistant to the international union president at a time when the steel industry was dominated by men.
"I'm very much a feminist," she says with a smile.
Her job, helping women enter the steel industry was "a labor of love," she says, much like her efforts to tame what was once a field of weeds.
The garden is designed so that one can walk through it slowly. Looking closely, visitors will find unique items such as a a stone with a face on it.
Ms. Stiller's pond provides entertainment for the entire neighborhood. One boy was so fascinated by the tadpoles he saw there that he knocked on her door and asked for one. She gave it to him, and before she knew it, other children were knocking, too.
"I supplied tadpoles for everyone in the neighborhood," Ms. Stiller says, laughing.
During today's tour, she plans to supply coffee and maybe lemonade or cookies for those who drop by.
As she tends to her garden, Ms. Stiller wears a bright yellow Women of Steel sweatshirt. Gardening was an outlet from her job, she says, but the two activities also had some parallels.
"It's all part of nurturing," she says. Both were about "getting to understand the balance of things."
Monica Disare: email@example.com First Published June 15, 2013 4:00 AM