Cherie Gold of Niskayuna has been working on the gardens around her Niskayuna home for the past 13 years, and this weekend she shares the results of her efforts for the Soroptimist 11th Annual Garden Tour, along with eight other gardeners in Schenectady County.
Gold used to garden with her mother when she was growing up in the nearby Hexam Road neighborhood, but that gardening was limited to annuals. Over the past two decades, Gold has been learning about and refining her skills as a perennial gardener, and she has created a well-rounded sensory experience in her garden, with a wide variety of shapes, colors, and scents.
“My goal for my gardens is to have something blooming in every season,” she said. To that end, she’s careful about the plants she selects. Tulip bulbs and peonies bloom early. A ligularia or “golden rocket” shoots up spiky yellow flowers in late June. A Betty magnolia tree serves as a focal point for the garden behind the porch.
She grows limelight hydrangeas that offer tall, huge blooms in mid to late summer. A Japanese anemone provides pink blossoms in late summer. September bloomers are hard to find, but Montauk daisies fill that bill, as does the tardiva or “panicle hydrangea” that blooms in early to late fall with white flowers that turn a pinkish purple.
Soroptimist 11th Annual Garden Tour
WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Gardens throughout Schenectady County; tickets available at The Petal Pusher, Oliver’s Café, Scott’s Hallmark in Mayfair Plaza, Felthousen’s Florist, The Open Door, Experience and Creative Design, Kulak’s Nursery and Faddegon’s Nursery or by mail (order form online at www.soroptimistofschenectady.org)
HOW MUCH: $18; buy 5 get one free
The blooms come in a variety of colors, including purplish-blues, pinks, deep fuchsia, yellow, salmon and white.
Gold looks for contrast in the colors of green foliage. For example, dead nettle has pale green leaves with dark green borders, and a perennial geranium sports green leaves with purple centers. She grows plants with varied shades of green next to each other for contrast.
In addition to continual color, Gold seeks out the unique. “I like to collect unusual things,” she said. She planted a cimicifuga near the porch because their late summer flowers remind her of an ostrich feather duster. “It smells like cotton candy, so I put it by the deck so we could smell it,” she said.
She planted coralberry, a shrub with small pink flowers that turn into styrofoam-looking pink balls. The flowers of a smoke bush near the deck look like a puff of smoke. A gas plant in one of the front yard gardens gives off a gasoline scent when you snap the stem. A tamarix tree in a front yard bed produces “really cool, very whispy-looking pink cascade flowers,” Gold said.
Finding an anchor
Gold keeps structure and type of foliage in mind when choosing plants. In her classes with garden guru Kerry Ann Mendez, she learned to choose an “anchor” for a garden bed; the bed in the front yard, for example, has a Japanese maple tree as its anchor. Two ninebark diablos anchor the border garden on the left side of the property.
Some plants serve as memorials and reminders. In the front yard, there is a lilac bush that came from the garden of Gold’s late sister. She found a tiny stick of lilac entwined in a rosebush that came from her sister’s garden, and she’s nurtured it into a thriving plant.
In the front bed, there’s a golden surprise rosebush that Gold won at a gardening symposium on the day that her beloved golden retriever died. It sends up apricot-colored flowers and serves as a memorial to her pet.
There’s a bleeding heart with golden leaves that was a Mother’s Day gift from her son, and several plants, including irises and geraniums that were gifts from friends. “Usually we [gardeners] get things from other people,” Gold said. “When they come up, you think about them.”
She also works with the natural features of her property. A stream that runs through the neighborhood makes some very wet areas in her backyard, so she planted dappled willows that don’t mind the wet.
The past two decades of perennial garden have provided many lessons during her trial and error with different plants. For example, she had planted hydrangeas that bloom on “old wood,” that is, they set their buds in the fall and may or may not bloom depending on the winter weather. Hydrangeas that set their buds in the summer on “new wood” are much easier to grow.
She has also had to adjust her gardens as features on her property changed. When a 70-foot tall pine tree in the front yard fell down in a windstorm, she had its twin taken down also. As a result, the front garden bed gets more sun, so she has had to replant and move plants because of the increased heat and light.
Gold clearly enjoys her garden and said she spends as much time as she can, roughly five hours a day, working on it. Her husband jokes that it’s a good thing it gets dark at night, or she might not stop.
Those who take the garden tour on Saturday will be able to experience Gold’s garden as well as eight others. Proceeds from the tour benefit the Soroptimists’ philanthropic work.