Monday, May 28, 2001

Mary's Plant Farm a favorite

By Melissa Geiss
Enquirer Contributor

        HANOVER TOWNSHIP — You might find her roaring past you on a tractor, wild hair blowing in the wind, or out in the fields dividing perennials.

        One thing's for sure, though. Mary Harrison is happiest when she's elbow-deep in dirt.

  • Address: 2410 Lanes Mill Road, McGonigle <
  • Phone: (513) 894-0022 <
  • Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 12:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
        This is the 25th year that Mrs. Harrison, 80, has operated Mary's Plant Farm in McGonigle, near Oxford. The business is a perennial favorite with gardeners because it offers rare and unusual plants, as well as native species. All stock is field grown at the farm so it will thrive when transplanted into a garden, Mrs. Harrison said.

        Since the plant farm has been listed as a source in several gardening books, Mary's has received visitors from all over the United States. It isn't unusual for tour buses to unload crowds of gardeners, arboretum volunteers or members of garden clubs and horticultural societies.

        “If they love plants, they usually find us,” Mrs. Harrison said.

        Fifty-five years ago the plant farm was just a cornfield. Mary and her late husband bought the property on which the farm sits, and she decided she wanted a yard like the one she knew as a little girl. So she began the backbreaking labor of making a garden.

        Today that cornfield has been replaced by six acres of mature shade trees and landscaped perennial borders.

        Mrs. Harrison's daughter, Sherri Berger, manages the farm. They have propagated species, like larches and Japanese lilacs, that were not available locally. They encouraged gardeners to grow native species before it became the fashion it is today.

        Gene Metcalf of Oxford, a customer for more than 20 years, won't purchase nursery stock anywhere else.

        “Most plants for sale here have been in the ground for at least a season, so you know whatever you buy is hardy. You just know it's going to grow when you get it home,” he said.

        “Half the time I come out here just to look around and get ideas for my own garden.”

        Mrs. Harrison, a self-proclaimed “plant-a-holic,” is out in her garden nearly every day from dawn until dusk, although she would probably argue with calling it work.

        “Gardening should be fun,” she said. “That is why we do it. I know we break our backs, but it is insidious. It gets in your blood and you're hooked.”


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