The Gettysburg Garden Club through its Garden of the Month Committee is pleased to present the garden of the month award to Tom and Erika Crist, of 114 Springs Avenue, Gettysburg.
The property at 114 Springs Avenue reflects the spirit of gracious neighborliness and caring gardening on this Gettysburg street. Erika and Tom Crist bought the Queen Anne Victorian house in 2004, after 38 years and the raising of three sons in a nearby neighborhood. Dr. Milton Valentine, for whom there is an historic plaque next to the front door, had lived in the house in the early 20th Century. Years later Tom Crist grew up on Elm Street and played with two boys who then lived at 114 Springs. This happy memory helped to draw him and Erika to the house when it came on the market. In the process of refurbishing the property, they have reconnected with the two boys and have accomplished a great deal with careful attention and much love and work.
In 2004, a tangle of overgrown rhododendrons blocked the view from and of the front porch. The Crists removed the shrubs, replacing them with three alberto spruce, smaller rhododendrons, and azaleas. This month a line of “intense salmon” impatiens is planted in front of these. At either front corner of the property the Crists planted small trees: a lovely Japanese red maple and a handsome crepe myrtle. Erika says that its blossoms were a deep pink and now are white. The areas in front of the two trees are rimmed also by the vibrant impatiens. Steps to the front porch and the entrance of the house are lined at both sides by well shaped, rounded boxwoods, as are the steps leading one to the back yard near the Japanese maple. What highlights the lower ends of both sets of steps are colorful small triangular plots planted in bright seasonal annuals, now cheerful pansies, a variety that is tolerant of heat and humidity. Vincas will replace the pansies later.
The slope of the ground and tangle of bushes at the front of the house were a challenge, now resolved. Now the flow of planting and the extension of the porch along the east side of the house take one easily to the welcome three decks and landscape in the back of the house. Roses grow here in the sunlight by the house, and there is a feature along the way of bright yellow day lilies around an “owl” perched in the center of the lilies. A “weather plant,” so called by Erika because it blossoms profusely with each weather change, graces the steps of a deck.
In the backyard are well-pruned crab apples, an apple tree that produces many fruits, two pink dogwoods, a large pine, and a sunny enriched space for tomato plants and other vegetables that the Crists enjoy sharing with friends. Their tomato plants got an early start at Taylor’s nurseries. Besides now green planting around the sides of the garage in the rear of the back yard are hibiscus and yucca. Some pots that contain the offspring of the large pine may be future Christmas trees or gifts. By the west side of the house are a weeping cherry, bleeding hearts, mountain laurel, and low-growing ornamental grasses. Ericka says of their soils that they frequently amend them : “You name it, we’ve added it...grass clippings, perlite, compost...” They use only organic aids, and she enjoys the therapeutic aspect of weeding. The immediate look of the results of their gardening is clean and deceptively simple because the Crists have carefully thought out and arranged their landscape and garden beds. A good mulching on the beds helps too, and keeps most of the maintenance work at a manageable level.
The commodious front and side porch framed by a sturdy white balustrade and pillars contains several attractive places for visiting and dining. Ceiling fans move the air while pots with various plants, including gardenia bushes, please the eye. Some bonsai gardens given by a near neighbor intrigue the visitor. As an example of her special attention to their plants, Erika regularly takes down each hanging pot that contains a lush Boston fern from the outer frame of the porch to water from the bottom up. There are at least eight of these pots.
The gardens and inviting decor of the porches and decks convey a delightfully serene atmosphere, even in the hot and often unpredictable weather of July. Along with their care of this special property the Crists continue to own a souvenir shop on Steinwehr Avenue, named in memory of two of their beloved dogs, Flex and Flannigan. You will find it a pleasure to see 114 Springs Avenue and the neighborhood; and if you are lucky, to meet Tom and Erika Crist.
To nominate your property or someone else’s for the Garden of the Month award please call or text Deb Steckler at (717) 357-3623 or go to our website at www.gettysburggardenclub.com