Just two years ago, the space next to their little backyard pond used to be covered with rocks.
Ken Gall wanted more for that area — a spot for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. So he planted mint, coneflower and black-eyed Susans. Hummingbird feeders hang on a nearby pergola.
His work is paying off, and as proof, a hummingbird buzzed by for a quick snack earlier this week. The tiny iridescent green bird flitted back and forth, flying off before anyone could snap a photo. Even on one of the hottest days of the summer, Gall and his wife, Ronna, have critters enjoying the secluded space they created in their back yard.
The Galls’ home is one of seven on the Marietta Garden Tour this year. The tour will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, and features gardens filled with fruit trees, pollinator-friendly gardens, shade gardens and a rain garden.
“Our goal is giving gardeners ideas for fall gardens,” says Lauralee Baker, tour chairperson and board member of the Marietta Community House.
The tour is also a fundraiser for the Marietta Community House on West Market Street. Since it was built in 1871, the house has been a meeting place for many groups. For a time decades ago, it was a sanitarium for children receiving the rabies vaccine. Later, the space housed churches and a library. Susquehanna Stage Company theater group was based in the building before moving a few blocks away this past winter.
A group of volunteers are renovating the house and have already revamped the rooms on the first floor and added air conditioning, Baker says. Next up are renovations for the second floor, including adding a bathroom and renovating the kitchen. The garden tour helps make that happen, along with an auction on Sept. 21 and a candlelight tour on Dec. 1 that also raise funds for the Community House.
The Galls agreed to be on the garden tour and now have an extra incentive to spruce up the landscaping at their home on West Market Street, built around 1865. Through research, Ken Gall discovered the property was once part of a small orchard. That helps explain nearby Apple Alley. The home also was near the center of what used to be known as Irishtown.
The property no longer has fruit trees, but Ken Gall is proud of the unique trees thriving in the yard. There’s a type of maple tree with feathery leaves in the front and a Kentucky coffeetree that drops large pods in the backyard. He also planted pink and white Rose of Sharon shrubs taken from his mother’s home in Indiana.
The neighborhood is no longer called Irishtown, and these days the couple love being blocks away from the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail, where they bike at least once a week. They are prepping for a big ride this fall to raise money for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. They also added a bicycle to their landscaping.
A vintage touring bike sits on their front porch has a basket planted with dahlias and trailing petunias. A welcome mat is stamped with a bicycle. In the backyard, a clock decorating a fence is made from a bicycle wheel.
Ken Gall has the primary green thumb in the household but Ronna Gall made sure to plant something to remind her of her Georgia roots. Two bright pink mandevillas are tropical vines but they thrive in two large pots on the front porch. It’s not the South, yet the plants thrive in the heat of a Pennsylvania summer.
“They’re a little piece of home,” Ronna Gall says.
A patio tucked in the backyard corner of the L-shaped house is a secluded spot with a pergola overhead.
Every accessory has a story, too. Ken Gall spotted a weather vane on a property where a house was being removed. He works in real estate for Hershey Trust.
“Can I get that?” he asked and brought it home for the garden.
Ronna Gall, who is a math teacher at Donegal Intermediate School, brings her career into the garden as well. She makes sure Ken’s plantings are symmetrical.
Large pots on the patio are filled with tropical banana plants, heat-loving begonias and King Tut grass, which looks like a grass with fireworks at the tip.
The Galls spotted triangular sun sails at coffee shops on their travels and a few weeks ago added a few red ones for more shade. From the table below, they share meals and cups of coffee while watching birds and hummingbirds.
“It’s my little hideaway place,” Ronna Gall says.