The Strasburg Heritage Society's Secret Gardens of Strasburg Tour truly lives up to its name this year. At least two of the properties on the tour, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 23, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 24, are mostly hidden from public view.
"It does really afford us a lot of privacy, but you pay for it in the fall when the leaves come down," homeowner Dale Kaufman quipped.
Kaufman and his wife, Stephanie, live in the house at 43 W. Main St., Strasburg, that his father purchased before World War II. The elder Kaufman transplanted a number of pine trees from the family's cabin to the third-acre property. They joined a Dawn redwood, a species first imported from China in the 1940s, that Dale estimated is now the tallest tree in Strasburg. Over the years, 10 redbud trees and about a half-dozen dogwoods have been added.
In addition to trees, Dale and Stephanie have focused on perennials and other low-maintenance plants. There are so many landscaping plants that it takes Dale only 20 minutes to mow the grass.
"I hardly use any mulch, and then mainly along the edges. There's a lot of ground covers like ivy and pachysandra," Dale said. "We have a lot of shades of green and textures. I need to tame it once in a while, but I like it wild: Let nature have its way."
There are times when fellow tour hosts Linn and Susan Moedinger feel like nature is winning on their farm at 1835 Pioneer Road, Lancaster.
"I can't keep up with the weeds this year," Susan said, noting that abundant rainfall has made both wanted plants and weeds flourish.
A copse of evergreen and deciduous trees along the road conceals the 72-acre farm from view. The farm has been in Linn's family since 1711. The couple lives in an English sidehall Georgian home that was built in 1763. A Germanic house built in 1730 sits at the rear of the property. Approximately three acres surrounding the two houses are maintained as gardens and lawns, 12 acres are planted for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the remainder are rented to farmers. To relax, the family enjoys the brick patio at the rear of the main house. "This is where we hang out," Susan remarked. "It's nice and shady back here, and there's always a breeze."
Susan is a member of the Hemerocallis Society and the American Hosta Society, so her estimated 400 varieties of hostas and 400 day lilies (hemerocallis) are all labeled. "When you consider there are 87,000 day lilies, it's not that impressive," she said modestly.
The Moedingers' son married on the farm in August of 2009, so they planted a number of items for the wedding. Other plants were installed because they struck the couple's fancy.
"There are a lot of interesting trees on the property," Susan said. She listed an ancient ash, katsura, American chestnut, Japanese parottia, tricolor beech, deodar cedar, and a Japanese red cedar called cryptomeria that is thriving between two outbuildings.
"Cryptomeria doesn't grow well in this area," Susan said. "It cannot take cold wind, and it needs full sun, but it can't have afternoon sun."
The public may tour these two gardens and seven others by purchasing discounted tickets in advance at Main Street Antiques, Java Junction, Speckled Hen, and Hart Road Potters. On the days of the tour, tickets may be purchased at full price at the Shroy House, 122 S. Decatur St., Strasburg. The heritage society will use the proceeds to maintain several historical houses in Strasburg.
For more information, readers may visit http://www.strasburgheritagesociety.org or find the Strasburg Heritage Society on Facebook.