Doug and Valerie Kinsman have an oasis in their backyard.
Upon entering their flowerbeds through a trellis, lush green shrubs set the background for colorful flower blossoms.
A brick pathway allows a close-up experience with the textures and aromas of the various plants and herbs.
The rush of a water fountain and wind chimes fill the country silence.
This is what Valerie calls “gardening for the senses.”
Her large flower garden, wrapped around the farmhouse on Doug’s homeplace in rural Archbold, succeeds in engaging all five of them.
“It causes a person to feel relaxed and feel peace,” she says.
“A Riot of Color”
Valerie began gardening under the inspiration of her late grandmother, Gertrude Parker.
Gertrude was an innovative gardener who experimented with crossbreeding plants.
Valerie was also inspired by her mother, Evelyn Engel, who continues to enjoy plants and gardening at the age of 72.
Valerie’s own garden is informal, with full, dense vegetation.
To create some structure, Valerie uses shrubs like junipers and deciduous plants like crabapple trees and hydrangeas.
But the “riot of color,” says Valerie, comes from blooming flowers such as David Austin hybrid roses and multiple varieties of hostas, sedums, and flox.
“Her idea was to have flowers bloom spring to fall,” said Doug.
In the spring, the Kinsmans enjoy blooms on flowers such as lilacs, azaleas, and purple and blue alliums. The fall season showcases chrysanthemums, columbines, spireas, and even an autumn crocus, a flower most commonly associated with spring.
“Last year, it was beautiful here. We had flowers blooming all the time,” said Doug.
Besides the garden’s beauty, Doug said the dense vegetation is low maintenance.
Still, Valerie spends 60 hours tending her flower beds each spring. She weeds out dead plants, trims trees and shrubs, and lays down mulch.
The Kinsmans also tend their one-acre vegetable garden, which features unique items like purple carrots and red-and-yellow-striped tomatoes. They also grow lesscommon vegetables like bok choy, kohlrabi, and swiss chard, which can be used in stir fries.
A “hoop house,” in their backyard, named for its oval shape, provides all-natural solar heating and 20-degree temperatures throughout the winter so the Kinsmans can grow vegetables almost year ‘round.
“I’ve pulled weeds in February,” said Doug.
Getting a Start
Doug says his wife, like her grandmother, pushes toward innovation in gardening.
“She wants to change things,” he said. “She’s always on the cutting edge.”
But Valerie’s gardens weren’t always so big and elaborate.
Her present-day flower beds were started in 2000.
“As a young homeowner,” she said, “I started out with things that my Grandmother and my mother gave me.”
The first year, they chose to plant behind the house where the grass didn’t grow very well. Valerie said she’d thought, “Let’s do something (back there) that I can enjoy.”
Self-educated by reading gardening books from the public library, Valerie began the garden, and Doug built brick pathways and a fence along the perimeter.
Later they added the water fountain.
Can Anyone Garden?
Valerie now has to tell herself to stop adding area to her garden so the workload doesn’t become unmanageable. But she encourages others to plant something, because it will brighten their lives.
“I would encourage people to plant a little something, even if it’s just an herb garden by the back door or a potted flower,” said Valerie.
Those growing plants and the color they give off are what “give you pleasure coming and going,” she said.