The Putnam County Master Gardener Volunteers Present: Gardeners of Putnam County. This is the ninth in a series appearing in the Sentinel every other week into October. Each article shares the experience of a different Putnam County gardener, focusing on a particular garden project or feature that brings the gardener joy.

In 2004 Kaye and Sheldon “Red” Doud, then of the New Jersey Shore, retired and moved to Putnam County to be near their family. Over several months’ time they took turns driving the distance to settle their possessions in a home with a deep lot above the Blanchard River west of Kalida. To carry on their love of gardening, they brought treasured plants and fish and water lilies from Red’s pond in New Jersey. On weekends Red rented a backhoe and dug a bigger and better pond that features a waterfall splashing down a rocky slope. The pond became the hub of an extensive garden that Kaye and Red have steadily expanded outward.

Today the pond and garden complex is anchored on one end by their home and on the other by a massive, ancient white oak and other trees above the Blanchard. The transplanted water lilies and a fringe of cattails, both native and dwarf, flourish in the pond. Rocks accumulated from their travels around the country border the edge, many of them fossils from Tennessee and Colorado. Several waves of raised beds reach out from the pond with sand, gravel, and river stone paths running between. More raised beds and paths extend into the shade on the south side of the property and around the house. The beds are lush with shrubs and perennials, which Kaye prefers to annuals. “My first garden came from Springhill Nursery near Dayton,” Kaye says. She has continued to add “whatever suits my fancy.”

Many of the perennials that please Kaye also please bees, butterflies and birds. Mature patches of Autumn Joy sedum, purple cone flower, Joe Pye weed, milkweed, Russian sage, garden phlox, obedient plant, bellflower and others appear throughout the beds. The variety of shrubs and small trees growing among them include lace-leafed red maples, holly bushes transplanted from New Jersey (and growing very well), cedars, Rose of Sharon, and newly planted Alberta spruce. There is even the beginnings of an arborvitae wall inspired by a visit to The Butchart Gardens in British Columbia. Going forward, Kaye intends to lighten her workload by planting more shrubs than herbaceous plants.

Throughout the garden are wooden structures and decorative items that attest to Red’s woodworking skill and Kaye’s lively sense of fun. There are rustic outbuildings, wooden tuteurs (trellises), decorative fences, a wooden archway and a special memento of their life on the Jersey Shores, a sturdy wooden post hung with brightly painted, mellow-toned buoy bells collected from along the Atlantic Coast. Kaye has placed around decorative containers, bright ornamental metal pieces (her “metal garden”) a colony of gnomes, and a column of turtles marching along beside a bed of Autumn Joy sedum.

Maintaining such a garden takes work. On many mornings Kaye is outdoors weeding or watering in the predawn cool, while Red might be facing a task like digging out tough over-reaching perennial grasses with his backhoe.

On a lazy sunlit August afternoon, Kaye and Red sit with a visitor in a soft breeze on their shady new back porch, gazing out over the pond and the riot of colors and shapes surrounding it, at wrens and robins, bees, butterflies and dragonflies darting about. A Tiger Swallowtail sails through over their heads, and a bullfrog lies motionless at the edge of the pond. “I can’t believe we did this,” Kaye murmurs. “It’s like the Garden of Eden.”

Master Gardeners are Ohio State University Extension-trained volunteers working with county Extension personnel to provide educational services to their communities. For more about the Master Gardener program, contact the Putnam County Extension Office, 419-523-6294, or go online to Watch for details in the Sentinel about Master Gardener training classes this fall.