You might call Tricia Brown’s garden the bee’s knees.
The Lancaster resident’s organic vegetable garden is filled with a mix of plants, herbs and flowers designed to draw pollinating bees. The bucolic space was named Best of Show in this year’s Dispatch Backyard Garden Awards.
“I was aiming just to get into the festival,” said Brown, 57, who entered the contest last year. “I wasn’t expecting the Best of Show.”
The honor was announced Sept. 10, during the Fall Dispatch Home & Garden Show. The fifth edition of the event also recognized gardens in the categories of landscape, native plants, perennials, community garden, vegetable and container. A People’s Choice prize was also given.
The Dispatch presents the event in collaboration with Oakland Nurseries, AgPro and the At Home section, and master gardeners from OSU Extension pick the winning gardens from the entries.
Brown, 57, was inspired to create her garden in 2019 when, after many years of renting houses and tending to gardens at each, she and her husband, Thomas Rhyne, bought a house of their own.
“I couldn’t wait to get my first garden,” Brown said. “I probably spent 20 years on paper just designing this garden (and) waiting till a time that I could put it in.”
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The pandemic gave Brown a chance to focus on her burgeoning garden, which includes 70 kinds of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers; Brown is particularly proud of her Persian cucumbers, Mini Love watermelons and Bristol black raspberries, the last of which remind her of her childhood on a southeastern Ohio farm.
“I want somebody to go in the garden gate and be able to just kind of wander through and see all kinds of interesting things,” Brown said.
Of special importance to Brown was making sure her garden was buzz-worthy: Years ago, she had noticed that she had been seeing fewer and fewer bees when she was out and about, so she took several steps to make sure her own garden was attractive to bees.
For example, flowers that bloom in purple were chosen.
“I read that the honeybees are attracted to purple,” said Brown, who also assured that water features, such as bowls, were shallow so that the bees wouldn’t drown.
As for the 26 varieties of herbs in her garden, Brown said, “I process them early in the spring, early summer, and then let them grow to keep the flowering, which really draws (the bees).”
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Brown doesn’t use pesticides, and she tries to “plant in harmony.”
“There’s a huge walnut tree not far away,” she said. “Because a lot of vegetables don’t like walnuts, I had to be very careful how I planted them.”
And the bees aren’t the only ones who appreciate the gardener’s efforts.
“It’s my happy place,” Brown said of her winning garden.
The People’s Choice prize went to a very special sort of backyard: the community garden of Saint Andrew Christian Church in Dublin.
The church has maintained a garden for more than two decades: The produce it produces is harvested for the Help My Neighbors Food Pantry.
For the past four years, church member Kay Hoagland of Dublin has taken the lead in maintaining the garden, which, this year, is on track to donate about 1,000 pounds of produce.
“I’ve gardened almost all of my adult life, and my parents were gardeners and my grandparents,” said Hoagland, 75. “It’s something that I’ve always done and always enjoyed, and the best thing to do is to use your talents to help others.”
About 10 people from the church work on the garden in addition to Hoagland; since the space isn’t surrounded by a fence, they avoid planting things likely to attract rabbits or deer.
“We don’t plant lettuce and spinach,” Hoagland said, but white and purple potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers, among others, have all been harvested this year.
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Hoagland and the other volunteers solicit feedback from those who use the food pantry.
“I ask at the food bank, . . . ‘We brought you a lot of cucumbers. Is that popular? Do people like that? Should we plant them next year?’” she said.
Eggplant is popular, she said, as a vegetarian substitute.
During the pandemic, those who worked in the garden found the activity a great way to be together and be outdoors.
“We would bring a lunch and sit outside and eat,” Hoagland said. “It was a really great social activity for us during COVID.”
The most important thing, though, is those whom the garden serves.
“The fact that we are donating this food allows people to have fresh fruits and vegetables as opposed to canned goods,” Hoagland said. “There is a huge difference there.”
Second-place finishers in The Dispatch Backyard Garden Awards:
Perennial: Mary Anne and Ed Kitchen, Canal Winchester
Native plant: Chandra Fredrick, Grove City
Community: St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, Powell