Greensburg center sponsors Joy of Gardening

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It's much too late to tiptoe through the tulips. But you can still stroll through vegetable, flower and rock gardens, cool off under a bevy of ornamental trees, take in some unique water features and oversized bird houses and learn what words like tuteurs and pergolas mean.

All this and more will be featured during the Greensburg Garden Center's annual garden tour with seven beautiful and unique locations selected this year in a program titled The Joy of Gardening. The tour starts at 10 a.m. June 29 at the Greensburg Garden Center, 951 Old Salem Road in Greensburg, and continues through 3 p.m.

"The tour is one aspect of the center's objectives of stimulating an interest in horticulture and disseminating all forms of garden knowledge," said Mary Ann Artman, chair of this year's tour. "Katherine Mabis McKenna started the center in 1960, and today we have approximately 200 members. We rent a space in the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center and have about eight fundraisers a year, including the garden tour and May Mart, our annual plant sale."

Today, GGC maintains an office, an extensive horticulture library, a workroom and storage area, a garden house and a garden. Surrounding the building where they rent a space are four-plus acres, which include an arboretum planted in 1969. Currently, GGC is working with the Westmoreland Trust, the McKenna Foundation and the city of Greensburg to refresh the arboretum with an ultimate goal of a complete restoration.

Additionally, GGC has a number of activities throughout the year, including bus trips, workshops, garden speakers and a Christmas home showcase. Short programs on varied horticulture topics are presented at its monthly membership meetings held at the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center at 11 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month, except July. New memberships are $15 and renewals are $12 with student memberships available for $3. For more information, phone 724-837-0245 or visit website

This past March, GGC organized a bus trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show and will offer another trip to Stan Hywett Hall and Gardens in Akron, Ohio, on Sept. 18. On Aug. 6, GGC will reprise last year's Butterfly Release of 100 butterflies by "The Butterfly Guy," Rick Mikula, author of "The Family Butterfly Book." The details of the event, including the start time, have not yet been finalized.

In time for the holidays, GGC is staging a Christmas Historical Church Tour of four or five Greensburg churches decorated for the season by local florists with music and refreshments.

"Our upcoming garden tour can be completed in about three hours, depending on how much patrons linger and talk to our hostesses positioned in each garden to answer questions," Mrs. Artman said. "The brochure, which serves as a ticket, [$12 in advance, $15 the day of the event], has a synopsis of each of the seven gardens plus explicit directions to each one. None of the interiors of the homes are included on the tour, but refreshments will be served in the rear sun porch of one of the homes."

The gardens of Rick and Sharon Schwirian, their son, Chris, 28, and daughter, Katrina, 25, of Herminie are included in the tour. The family cultivates an extensive vegetable garden with 24 raised beds, 180 tomato plants and more than 100 different herbs.

"We grow just about every vegetable that will thrive in our climate," said Katrina, who either freezes or cans enough of the harvest to provide food for the family throughout the following winter and spring.

Calling on their experience as owners of a family landscaping business, the Schwirians also cultivate extensive flower gardens for which Chris builds arbors, tuteurs (obelisks for growing vines) and birdhouses, including one that's 4 feet tall.

In North Huntingdon, Bonnie and Orv McConnell are showing their garden for the first time in the GGC tour, although they participated five years ago in the Greenridge Garden Club tour. On this tour, patrons will be able to see the couple's collection of more than 100 varieties of hostas and day lilies as well as a variety of ornamental trees such as a pink flamingo maple and a Cherokee sunset dogwood.

Behind the house, the owners constructed a "pondless stream" made from a pump and rocks they collected from a road construction project.

"We just love the stream as do the kids and our Shelties, who like to drink from it," Mrs. McConnell said.

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Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer:


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