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Posted on Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 5:45 a.m.

500 flock to Chelsea Garden Walk to admire residents' gardens

By Alana West

Jeanene Riemenschneider loves to be home working with the soil, and watching things grow.

“I play golf, but I’d rather be gardening. I’m a much better gardener,” the Chelsea resident said. “I’d rather be gardening than almost anything else.”

Her garden was among the 10 unique gardens on display at Saturday’s Chelsea Garden Walk. Nearly 500 people attended the garden walk, which was about double the amount of people from two years ago, the last time the garden walk was held.

People came from as near as Ann Arbor to as far away as Paw Paw and Battle Creek, according to Trinh Pifer, owner of the Garden Mill, which sponsored the garden walk along with the Chelsea Area Garden Club.

“It was so nice hearing all the comments from people (praising) Chelsea’s natural beauty,” she added.

Among those who came to praise were the Buds and Buddies Garden Club from Brooklyn.

“The Rustic Drive area was really nice. They took us around in golf carts if we wanted,” said Judy Childs of Lake LeAnn, who added that the most interesting garden belonged to David and Marge Mastie, and featured a secret garden, hidden from the road by enormous fir trees. On the three-acre property are 30 unique gardens in eight garden rooms. Besides the green leaves, waterfalls and ponds and flowers in bloom, an enormous chess set, a bocce ball field, volleyball net and fire pit were among the other features in the gardens.

John Dreher of Chelsea, whose garden was shown on Rustic Drive along with three of his neighbors, said he began gardening when he bought his house in 1998.

“I do the planting, pruning and splitting stuff in the spring,” said Dreher, adding his wife plans where all of the plants go.

“It’s a labor of love,” he said, adding that when he put in a sprinkler system, “that’s when things started to rock,” and his plants began to grow in profusion.

He said he decided to enter the garden walk when a neighbor suggested he do so.

Their garden features a boxwood knot garden, and an English cottage theme, which the couple decided on after being inspired by a trip to England. Lavender grows along the winding path that leads to the lakeshore, and a picket fence is planted with roses and other perennials.

“I’m always working about three hours every morning,” he said.

Meryll Crockett of Chelsea, a volunteer for the garden walk, said she enjoyed the three gardens at Rustic Drive, owned by Valerie Paladino, Jan and Jon Inwood and the Drehers, because they were a good example of community.

“These three gardens share the strip of yard in between. They don’t have to put up fences and walls, and things that clash,” she said. Instead the three gardeners chose to plan the strip of land together with their neighbors so they would all get the beauty from it.

Crockett also said that she liked the Inwoods’ garden because vegetables were incorporated into the flower garden.

“She put tomato plants, cucumber, parsley and basil right in the middle of her flower garden. A lot of people think we should have our vegetables in a vegetable garden in the backyard. She has the space and the sun, and her kitchen is right here,” said Crockett, pointing out the vegetables in the front yard, flanked by colorful perennials and annuals.

Janet Alford of Chelsea said each of the three gardens on Rustic Drive all looked well maintained.

“There’s not a single speck on anyone’s home ground that’s not attended to. You just want to sit down and relax,” said Alford.

Kay and Steve Oldstrom of Ann Arbor loved Nancy and Doug Cooper’s garden the best. Set on the shore of Joslin Lake, the garden featured more than 700 varieties of daylilies and 50 ornamental grasses.

“It’s spectacular. You can look out at the lake and look out at the flowers,” said Kay Oldstrom.

“I just love gardening,” said Nancy Cooper. She said she has great soil and doesn’t have to water because the soil is so moist from the nearby lake. She said many people have talked about the amount of work she has put into her garden.

“But gardens to me are meditation, not work. It’s my creativity. I’ve always been a real left-brained person,” she said, adding that she loves to show her gardens to people.

Alana West is a freelance writer for To reach the news desk call 734-623-2530.