Mary Ann Brightens Up North Main Street
Beginning in February, a ride or walk on North Main Street, New Martinsville will reward a person with the beginning of flower season. Crocuses, snowdrops, and hellebores are the first flowers to awaken from their winter slumber and are soon followed by daffodils, tulips, forsythia, azaleas, peonies, pansies, rhododendrons, and lilacs. Along with the domesticated plants, wild dandelions and violets add their own accents to the garden. After the spring flowering, the summer profusion of blossoms is a gift to both humans and wildlife. The birds, bees and butterflies that are attracted by the colors and scents are just as beautiful as the flowers. The summer flowers tend to be more flamboyant, and include such beauties as Queen Anne’s lace, roses, sunflowers, hibiscus, hydrangeas, geraniums, daisies, black-eyed susans, bee balm, all sorts of lilies, and many, many more. The fall flowers are a bittersweet treat, and you will find asters, roses, fall-blooming pansies and chrysanthemums all along the street, sometimes lasting well past the first frost into November.
For over 30 years, Mary Ann Yevuta has tended to her garden and she thinks this is the best flower year in memory. She enjoys looking at formal plantings, but in her garden, she likes a wilder look. She mixes flowers with vegetables, and allows some wildflowers to thrive. She and the late Mike Barnes, who both enjoyed a wilderness look in their gardens, together founded the John Muir Garden Club, which is dedicated to promoting organic gardening. A tenet of this style of gardening is mixing different plants together for both protection from pests and beauty to the human eye. For example, marigolds and lemongrass are both insect repellents and can be planted close to other plants to keep them healthy.
Eggplant is notoriously susceptible to insect damage, so one year Mary Ann planted an eggplant in a container with some marigolds, which resulted in a good crop.
Mary Ann particularly prizes plants that smell good. In the spring, the scent of lilacs, her granddaughter’s favorite flower, fills the air all along Main Street. In her garden, she has plenty of roses, lavender, and just about any herb that most cooks would want – basil, oregano, dill, fennel, marjoram, lemon balm, lemon grass, sage, chamomile, tarragon, lovage, and more. Disappointingly for scent connoisseurs, many of the roses that are sold in florist shops lack their distinctive aroma, as commercial growers have prioritized other qualities, such as uniformity. When Mary Ann buys a rose bush, she always looks for one that is blooming so that she can determine whether it smells sweet. Of course, beauty is important too, but we all have five senses and a diverse garden stimulates all of them.
Mary Ann especially loves walking through her garden with her granddaughter, Aderyn, touching the herbs, smelling the flowers, looking at blossoms, and tasting vegetables. She believes that gardening can teach kids responsibility, while also giving them a real sense of accomplishment, as they harvest the flowers and food that they have grown. Gardening is also a great way to get regular physical activity-it can burn up to 600 calories per hour.
Mary Ann says, “I grew up on a farm, so I helped in the garden and the kitchen from the age of four or five, and I have had a love affair with both gardening and cooking for most of my 70 years.” The two things go together, and she often plants vegetables and herbs that are not readily available in supermarkets here; things like tomatillos, okra, or varieties of peppers that are common in Mexican or Asian cuisines. She also grew up eating a lot of “weeds”, like wild greens and wild asparagus. She believes in making the world a more beautiful place by tending one garden at a time.