Tucked away in a back corner of the Fairlawn condominiums is an island of floral beauty and color, a quiet place where the sounds of running water and singing birds compete with the sounds of the village.
Warren Witmer, a resident of the condos, created this place, pursuing a lifelong hobby of gardening.
“I grew up on the farm,” he said. “We grew a lot of vegetables we marketed in Youngstown.
“We also had dairy, and about everything else that goes with a farm.”
Later, he got involved in the construction business in Maryland, building highend homes in the Washington D.C. area.
During those years, he would come home and care for his flowers and his garden “and relax, to get away from the day’s pressures,” he said.
He and his wife, Lucille, retired to Archbold because their daughter, Joyce Nafziger, Archbold, who teaches art at Pettisville, “was after us” to move to the village.
Another factor– the cost of living in the Washington D.C. area made retirement there expensive.
Witmer said his flowers are mostly annuals that must be replanted every year.
“I left most of my perennials
(which live from year to year) in Maryland,” he said.
“I brought my amaryllis bulbs and my calla lilies. Everything else, I started here.”
He starts most of his annual plants, such as petunias and geraniums, from seeds.
“To get geraniums to bloom early, you’ve got to start them in December,” he said.
He uses a wooden rack he built with commonly available “shop lights” that use cool white fluorescent bulbs.
At the lowest level, a heating mat keeps the soil warm.
There’s enough heat from the lights to warm the higher levels.
But he does not use spe- cial “grow lights”.
“Grow lights are too expensive. Regular fluorescent bulbs work just as well,” he said.
Fairlawn condos feature small patio spaces. Around his patio, Witmer hung racks where red petunias grow.
There are potted flowers, hanging baskets, and other displays about the yard.
A variety of flowers is along a long west wall. There are also raised boxes of flowers and vegetables.
Tomatoes stand tall in plastic boxes. The specially designed boxes have their own water reservoir for plants.
“It takes a gallon per plant per day,” he said.
Witmer has built an elaborate watering system.
“I put soaker hoses in all my flower beds. It takes a lot of water,” he said.
The hoses are attached to timers that automatically turn the water on and off.
He also uses liquid fertilizer.
The liquid is mixed with water and fed into a watering wand; he both waters and fertilizes in one step.
There are also small hoses attached to the gutters or eavestroughs around the edge of the roof; nozzles spliced into the hose create a gentle rain for the flowers hanging from the wall.
Witmer said he doesn’t have a favorite flower.
“I like to experiment with different things. I’m starting my perennials now,” he said.
Witmer said he spends about two to three hours in the morning caring for his flowers and vegetables.
“In the afternoon, it gets too warm,” he said.
Then, in the evenings, he and Lucille sit outside on their small patio and enjoy the space he created.