A gardener’s oasis

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Cutting gardens and perennial beds thrive in Janet Cousins’ summer garden. Janet, a retired Vicksburg Community Schools employee, and her husband Tom, a semi-retired carpenter, built their home in 2000 on the edge of the Bear Creek Drain, a stream in Brady Township. Since that time, Janet has planned, developed and carefully tended her flowers.

The couple thoughtfully selected their home’s building site, a parcel on the family farm where Janet was raised. Four generations of Janet’s family lived and worked the farm. Janet is reminded daily of her childhood by a row of stumps along the back of the yard. These stumps are the remains of ash trees which marked a fencerow where Janet and her sisters moved sheep from one pasture to another. At one time, that fence row was clustered with ash trees and provided shade until disease destroyed them and nearly all the ash trees in this area.

There was no time for flower gardening when Janet grew up on the farm. Her family was busy with livestock and field crops. They did have a vegetable garden, and Janet’s mom did can foods, but there was neither time nor energy for flowers. When Janet and Tom were raising their own children, Janet tried some flowers, but it is in her retirement where her hobby and passion for gardening really blossomed.

Today, Janet has created many beds of flowers: Shasta daisies, daylilies, coneflowers, Lucifer, black-eyed-Susan, and zinnias are her favorites and provide color throughout.

Rows of large canna lilies provide interest, as do birdbaths, birdhouses and garden statues.

A colorful line of hollyhocks and rows of various grasses sway in the breeze, and many varieties of hosta plants are tucked in the shade throughout the yard. A long wildflower garden stretches east along the old lane, and Janet says that the wildflowers surprise her each summer as they reseed and change.

Janet enjoys the garden view from their dining room table, and she finds tranquility in the flowers, butterflies, and birds at the feeders. She says that watching the activity, “always makes life interesting.”

Tom built a gazebo which family and friends enjoy. It is nestled among tall grasses and ferns, giving it the feeling of an oasis. He has built other structures, including a potting shed, duck houses, and bird houses. Tom appreciates and supports Janet’s love of flower gardening, and he has extensive vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and other unique trees that he has plants and nurtures.

Regular wildlife visitors are both a joy and a challenge to a gardener, but Janet and Tom’s two dogs keep the rabbit population out of the gardens and deer haven’t been a problem.

Janet is humble by nature, but when pushed to give gardening advice, she suggests “Start small. Make sure it is something you enjoy.” But she also goes on to share the benefits of gardening and the “relaxation and rewards” she finds when the weeding is finished and the flowering begins.

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