Rooting for Success
“I love it when a plan comes together”, the ubiquitous catch-phrase that character Hannibal Smith (played by actor George Peppard) frequently gloated in the mid-80’s TV sitcom the “A Team”, which in no uncertain terms was my favorite show at that time.
I’m happily reminded of those words and I am taking credit for the painstakingly planned attention to detail and also the overwhelming lack thereof during a recent road trip. Sometimes you need to just put it out to the universe and hope for the best.
My husband Dave and I together with his sister who resides in the Pittsburgh area, planned to meet in Meadville, PA where my elderly in-laws reside in an assisted living facility. We planned to stay a few nights at Wynken, Blynken and Nod B&B near them.
Whenever the rare travel opportunity pops up, I’m on the look out for a garden close by. I Googled the area and Goodell Gardens and Homestead was just twenty-five minutes from where we were staying. I quickly scanned their website and found that there was a Harvest Festival scheduled for the weekend which included a quilt show, something we thought would entice my mother-in-law to come along.
On Saturday, the four of us headed to the quilt show, but there was no sign of the festival. We were greeted by Dana Atwood, the Executive Director of Goodell Gardens and Homestead. He explained the festival was taking place on Sunday (so much for my painstaking attention to detail).
We told him that we had driven from the other side of the state and that we were also developing a public garden. He said he would enjoy taking time out of his frenzied schedule to personally walk us through the gardens and give us a private tour.
We began at the Welcome Center, which featured a large Master Site Plan detailing the future growth of the gardens and homestead and many historical pictures of its past. It was a very welcoming building with a gallery-like feel and soft lighting. It was here that Dana brought out three copies of previous site plans and explained how the final plan morphed into what it is now, with a final completion date of 2050!
The existing gardens, which are a work in progress were meticulously groomed and planted with a large variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs providing a colorful tapestry year round. He explained the work that was involved and the progression from the abandoned state the homestead had been in right up to its current glory.
There were mature specimens of trees expertly pruned and well maintained which were abundant in the one-acre Heritage Garden (shade garden). Two in particular that captured my attention were the Acer palmatum planted in 1953 and a 75 year old Quercus among others. The mature open branching structure of the Acer palmatum was just stunning.
Large leaves of different cultivars of Hosta and other shade plants filled the area and wide walking paths were covered with mulch bordered by large rhododendron and azalea walls. A grassy area for repose, which housed a garden bench and a large black pipe wind chime hung from a low branch, comprised a part of the shaded area. The tall trees in the background gave it a cathedral like feeling.
Dana took us into a magnificent 1800’s barn that was dismantled and moved from a previous location on the site to its current home on the 5-acre Events Lawn. This jaw-dropping barn was reconstructed on a new foundation and all of the hardware in it was hand forged. It was really a thing of beauty. Honestly, I had some real envy here! We were amazed at the amount of planning and attention to detail that he and members of the board of directors had put into this enormous homestead reclamation endeavor.
There was also a Pollinator Garden located near the Welcome Center which housed a brightly colored collection of perennials and annuals that were filled with pollinator activity. It was bordered by a beautiful white picket fence which separated it from the main road, giving it a real cottage garden feel.
And to think this beautiful place is just in its infancy is even more inspiring to me as a public garden owner who is following along the same path, but on a miniscule scale compared to Goodell.
After Dana completed the tour, he most generously extended an offer to help us with anything he could to make our own gardens successful, as he was instrumental in developing the Master Site Plan. There are not many people out there today that would have extended that offer, but knowing he is a gardener himself makes it easy to understand why.
Had we arrived on the right day, we would have been lost in a crowd of hundreds and never been given this opportunity, we are very grateful for his hospitality and eager for their enormous success (as well as our own).
Good luck to Goodell Gardens and Homestead! You apparently have a big plan and it’s coming together.