English garden fits home, couple like a glove

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Dorothy and Nicholas Rescher live in a new house that looks old. And that’s by design.

When the couple built their home and garden in 2006, they put in a lifetime of experience, making them exactly what they wanted, down to the tiniest detail. And the garden surrounding the Swissvale house was every bit as important to them as the building.

That‘‍s why it was chosen as one of 11 gardens on the Wilkins School Community Center/Regent Square Garden Tour held Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Several years ago, the Reschers decided to downsize from their large home in Squirrel Hill. They were looking for a place close to the University of Pittsburgh, where Mr. Rescher is a philosophy professor. At first the couple thought about moving into an apartment, but Mrs. Rescher nixed that idea because she didn’‍t want to be without a garden. After much searching, they settled on this property in Swissvale.

“We wanted to be in a neighborhood,” she says. “And then this house came up that had the ground that we could use to build the house we wanted.”   

They tore down the house that was there and began planning.

“We worked with an architect for over a year and a half. We wanted everything in one floor,” Mrs. Reschler says, noting that due to a serendipitous turn of events with the builder, they were able to add a small second story.

But back to the garden. Its inspiration comes from the time that they lived in England.

“The idea of having a lot of flowers is really something we picked up in Oxford. There everybody has to know gardening. It’s just a part of life.”

The entire front yard is now a flower garden, sans grass. Landscape expert Paul Kimicata helped with the design.

“We told him what we wanted, and he came up with several choices of things and then got the plants. We chose plants mainly by color and texture, different leaves and different things that would bloom at different times of year, so that there is always something in bloom.”

Astilbes, small conifers, shasta daisies, Siberian irises, peonies, yucca, lychnis, hosta and Jack-in-the-pulpit populate the front garden, the largest space. Narrow paths lead to a small backyard and patio.  Mr. Rescher’‍s study overlooks the backyard, and the couple’‍s kitchen overlooks the front.  Every bit of the space is utilized to the fullest.

Although they have help twice a year for garden clean-up, Mrs. Rescher takes care of the garden herself.

“At certain times, it’s labor-intensive. [In spring] I deadhead what I didn’t cut back in the fall and cut the roses back.”

Last winter’‍s bitter cold took its toll on the garden.

“Something like 16 of my plants died,” she says.  “I’ve been replanting butterfly bushes. Rose bushes died, lavender died, caryopteris. ... There are so many things that didn’t make it through this winter.”

Besides being lovely to look at, the garden has inspired others. The idea of no grass is catching on.

“One neighbor did take out their lawn and now has total flower beds,” says Mrs. Rescher. “I know we were the first.”

Tickets are $20 and are available Sunday at the starting point, Wilkins School Community Center, 7604 Charleston Ave., 15218. All proceeds benefit the center.

Post-Gazette garden editor Susan Banks: sbanks@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1516.

Post-Gazette garden editor Susan Banks: sbanks@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1516.

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