A not-so-secret tour
By Sue Ellen Ross Post-Tribune correspondent July 16, 2013 1:40PM
Anronda Simpson of Merrillville (left) and Clattye Headen of Gary admire flowers at the first stop on the Miller Garden Walk tour. The women joined more than 650 visitors to the annual project, which included strolls through six personal gardens in the Miller Beach area of Gary. | Photo provided
Updated: August 18, 2013 6:16AM
After purchasing a new home this year, Janet Canfield found a backyard garden overgrown with weeds and miscellaneous debris. As she made a mental note to research expertise to make this very visible area presentable again, she saw an advertisement for the Miller Garden Club’s 14th annual Secret Garden Walk: Flower Beds, Garden Sheds and Fifty Shades of Red. The recent event was exactly what she needed to develop her green thumb.
“I brought my camera, since I knew that I’d probably see a million things I could use,” the Merrillville resident said as she boarded the shuttle bus that would take her to see six beautiful personal gardens in the Miller section of Gary. “For people like me, who don’t know the first thing about planting flowers or vegetables, this is invaluable.”
Some of the homeowners opening up their yards to the public were members of the Miller Garden Club.
“One of the (fun) challenges of this event is finding gardens and convincing owners to participate,” said current club president Karin Crane, whose home was the first stop on the tour. “We believe that by encouraging fellow gardeners to show off their beautiful gardens, the entire community will benefit.”
Founded in 1998, the club offered its first Secret Garden Walk in 1999.
Miller Garden Club founder and then-president John Nickerson had the idea to begin the project. He had previously lived in the Pullman district in Chicago, which had a Garden Walk each year, and Nickerson felt there was enough beauty in Miller to do the same.
Current club vice-president Corya Channing was the chairman who organized that first walk.
“We called it Secret Gardens because, for many people, Miller is a “secret” neighborhood, and because many of the gardens are tucked away behind fences or dunes,” Channing said. “We called the first one ‘Discovering the Beauty of Gary’s Lakefront Community.’”
The event titles have become more clever since club member Judy Ayers started coming up with catchy titles such as “Va Va Va Bloom,” “Floral and Hardy” and “Beauty and the Beach,” among others, Channing added.
Lisa Ruddell’s large backyard, which was the second stop on the tour, incorporates the interests of her whole family, which includes youngsters.
In the middle of the yard, which enjoys a rich, green, natural grass, is a play set for the kids, complete with slide.
Surrounding this, along the fence areas, are various endeavors, each unique in its own right.
Along the back perimeter of the yard are various plants, tress and sitting benches; to the right of this area is a Japanese garden, complete with wooden bridge; and to the left, you will find a colorful flower garden right next to a very large vegetable garden.
“This is my second year on the Garden Walk. I can always use new ideas for my shade garden,” said Sue McCandless of Chicago, as she rode the tour bus. “And for those who don’t know the area, this (event) is a great way to introduce Miller Beach to the community — and the world.”
Approximately 150 people are listed on the membership rolls of the Miller Garden Club. “Our club works very hard to keep several areas of our community clean, neat and well-planted. We take care of gardens and planters all over the Miller area,” Channing said. “We learn about gardening, which plants will grow best in our unique sandy soil and how we can keep our land ecologically ‘green’ by landscaping instead of hardscaping.”
For more information about the Miller Garden Club, call Corya Channing at 938-8532.