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Photo by Larry RosengrenLuna Bitzer in her garden.

Garden of the Month: Decades of loving care make a special garden

Luna Bitzer has been gardening at 128 South Laurel St. for 22 years and it shows, making it the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for June.

She lives in the historic home there with her husband, Joe. He built the charming garden shed and occasionally helps with heavy lifting, but mostly Luna does all the work herself, including some extraordinary tasks such as installing the paver walkway to the front door — using just a shovel — and forming stairs between levels in the terraced yard.

While she has had some help over the years with specific improvements, such as the all-female group of friends who helped build an arbor, or the Bitzers’ children who helped maintain a pond, she devotes a large amount of time to keeping the property healthy and beautiful. In summer and fall, she averages 20 hours per week working in the garden. In the winter she takes some time off and in the hottest months of summer she works fewer hours outside.

Among the biggest trees that dot the third-of-an-acre city lot at the corner of Almond Street are an ancient black oak (Ashland’s 1995 tree of the year), Douglas fir, silver maple and blue spruce.

When this garden was on the AAUW tour 10 years ago, Luna created a list of plants with nearly 150 names. Luna’s current favorites include Howard McMinn manzanita, microbiota decussata (a low-growing evergreen cypress), agastache, hesperaloe and several varieties of viburnum, ornamental grasses, and hardy geraniums. Cotoneaster franchetii forms a hedge along the alleyway

Luna says that the installation of a deer fence in 2013 changed her life as she no longer has to worry about what she plants or where. The garden is constantly evolving. What was once a pond that she created is now a shady raised bed, and most of the lawn has been converted to a berm that is rarely watered. The hot tub was removed and the deck rebuilt with a roof for outdoor dining. In all, it is a totally enchanting garden.

Ruth Sloan is a member of the Ashland Garden Club.

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