It takes a village to raise a child. But it takes two sisters to tend the flower gardens at Terre Hill Community Memorial Park.
For years the gardens were maintained by the public works staff. But the formation in 2016 of the Weaverland Valley Authority, a joint sewer/water authority between Terre Hill and East Earl Township, reduced the staff by two, says Bob Rissler, Terre Hill mayor and public works supervisor. Two more staff members retired, and a lack of funding to replace them left a need for volunteers.
Doris Weidner and Janet Weber, seasoned gardeners, enthusiastically stepped up to fill the need. At ages 80 and 81 respectively, the two octogenarians volunteer their time and skill to keep the 22 gardens — three are water gardens — in peak condition.
“It’s not easy finding volunteers these days. We are so fortunate to have Doris and Janet agree to take care of the gardens,” Rissler says.
These energetic sisters start their gardening season in May and end it in late October. A highlight for the two this spring was planting 125 geraniums the week before Memorial Day. Weidner says it was good therapy for the COVID-19 blues. Her sister agrees and thinks the geraniums are especially lovely this year.
“There’s nothing better than sunshine, good fresh air, getting exercise and helping your community,” Weber says.
At 6 a.m. each weekday morning the sisters tackle their gardening chores in the 10-acre park. With hoes, trowels, pruning shears and spades in hand, the two take about three hours to feed, weed, deadhead, prune and water the gardens. The sisters also take care of weeding the park’s four picnic areas. Staff does the mulching.
Along with the geraniums, Weidner and Weber also planted periwinkle, lily of the valley and dahlias. Weidner says this year has been challenging with heat and an abundance of weeds.
“Seeing the results and having people appreciate the beauty of the gardens is better than receiving money for our work,” Weidner says.
The sisters always loved flowers growing up and helped their mother in the family garden. As adults they planted flowers at their homes. Favorites are dahlias, roses and geraniums. Volunteering to help with the park gardens three years ago rekindled an interest in flower gardening for the two.
“We used to hang out at the park as kids,” Weber says.
Both now widows, the sisters were raised in Terre Hill, married and moved away. Weidner and her husband, Joseph, lived in Maryland. She moved back to Terre Hill and has been a resident for 20 years. Weber and husband Dick moved to East Earl, just outside of Terre Hill, where she currently lives.
“What makes Terre Hill special and encourages us to volunteer is the people,” Weidner says.
Rissler has nothing but praise for the sisters’ dedication to keeping the gardens picture-perfect. Since they took over, he says, the gardens are more manicured than in the past.
“Thanks to the sisters our gardens are the envy of other municipalities who ask how we do it,” Rissler says.
The park is a favorite for visitors from around the county with its Timbers Playground, pavilions, basketball and lighted tennis courts, playing fields, fitness trail — and the beautiful, well-tended gardens.
Weidner and Weber also volunteer in the park kitchen for community events. In August, they helped with Friday lunches in the park.
American botanist and horticulturist Luther Burbank said, “Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, medicine and food for the soul.”
Rissler says he believes this quote describes the attitude of Weidner and Weber, who are Terre Hill’s “hometown gardeners.”