By R. Rodgers
“I’ve always had a fondness for snow,” said John Szoke with that secret glance at Joan that all couples know. He touched her with his eyes and, of course, got the response he was looking for. You see, the two met during the historic Blizzard of ‘78! Both had lived in an apartment complex in Worcester at that time but were unknown to each other. After the days of snow finally stopped, Joan went out to her car, only to find it buried in literally eight feet of snow! Standing there deciding what to do, John appeared with his shovel, and the rest as they say is history. The two have been digging together ever since! Only now they dig in the rich soil of their beautiful three and a quarter acre yard here in Windham.
Let’s take a walk through the Szoke garden, shall we?! We begin with a row of giant lilac. “We put them in because they are so fragrant and because they are the state flower,” said Joan. The lilacs combine with a shady-mixed border that includes monks hood, ligularia, clematis, and roses. Moving on, we find a circular sundial garden. This boasts blue mist spirea, Persian coneflower, iris, penstemon, and various colored daylilies which surround grass that John hates to mow! Also, there is variegated dogwood, turtlehead, and a large mock orange tree that smells delicious!
Landing then at the patio garden surrounded by roses, azaleas, and queen of the prairie, a North American native, you can sit and enjoy the afternoon with the birds taking their bath. Tall Rose of Sharon in white, rose, and blue fill in the corner, and potted citrus trees take up residence on the steps. Down those steps to the pool area, where the Szokes were aiming for a peaceful look, we find red leaf plum, Japanese holly, astilbe, and Japanese painted ferns. The above ground pool is surrounded by a built-in deck with seating and a beautiful rock wall to show off the plantings. Then, the edible garden takes form with yummy “woodchuck-proof” veggies. In addition, there are many herbs and berry bushes, along with hazelnut, crabapple, pear and pluot trees.
Speaking of digging, the couple has been working on the final frontier by putting in a pond and woodland garden. “We dug the pond to solve a water problem, and we have been working on in for two years,” John explained. Around the pond are planted soft perennials, such as iris, boxwood, mallow, and rhododendrons. Daffodils bloom there in the spring. Beyond the pond, we finish out the walk with a natural setting of woodlands. All of this is on one acre of their property with the remainder left to the wildlife. There are countless other plants too numerous to name. They need to be seen to be appreciated.
Joan is a founding member of the Windham Garden Club, having answered an advertisement in the local paper placed by Claire Todisco, back in 1990. She jumped in with both feet! John found himself too busy with work for the group, he was always there to help out though. Joan stuck to the group, becoming president from 1995-1997 and holding pretty much all the jobs throughout the years. “We love this group. Gardeners tend to be active people, and we’ve had so many programs. We did lots of planting around town. It’s a great group of people. If you want to meet people and get involved, this is the group for you! We have made so many good friends over the years.” Joan remarked. For 32 years the Windham Garden Club has been meeting and growing friendships along with flowers all over town.
With so many plants to choose from, Joan refused to choose a favorite. “I can’t choose, I wouldn’t want to offend any of them,” she said with a smile. John, on the other hand was quick to share his favorite. “I like the Missouri Sun Drops. They are such a happy little plant! When the lavender blooms next to it, I just love the contrast of yellow and purple!” explained John. This pair of gardeners do most everything together, including enjoying a drive around town “to see people involved in things and what the volunteers are doing. It’s nice to know we are a part of that.”