Garden at Stan Hywet great for volunteers
By Kathleen Folkerth
WEST AKRON — Not many people can say their garden plot is on a grand estate, but Mary Bezbatchenko can.
The Goodyear retiree spends most Wednesdays throughout the growing season tending a plot of perennials in the Great Garden at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens.
“I look forward to Wednesday,” Bezbatchenko said. “Every week you see something different.”
Bezbatchenko, of West Akron, is one of a group of volunteers participating in the Adopt-A-Plot program at Stan Hywet. Each gardener participating in the program takes full responsibility for doing all the work required for their assigned section, with direction provided by lead gardener Sherri Wesner and her staff.
“We can find something for everyone to do,” Wesner said on a recent sunny Wednesday morning as Bezbatchenko worked side by side with Dennis Nestich and Ann Hubiak.
Wesner said gardeners interested in the program can sign up for the program through Stan Hywet’s volunteer department. Wesner then sets up a date and time to meet with the volunteer.
“I spend time with them letting them pick out a plot and helping them learn plant and weed maintenance, like deadheading and cutting things back,” Wesner said.
The program was the idea of longtime volunteer Phyllis Lerch, of West Akron, a retired Akron Public Schools educator. She noticed the Adopt-A-Highway programs and thought the same idea could be done at Stan Hywet, which needed all the help it could get to maintain its more than 1 acre in the Great Garden.
Because of the professional advice of Wesner and the horticultural staff, gardening novices are welcome.
“I have learned a tremendous amount,” Nestich said. “The staff is tremendous. As busy as they are, they take the time to work with you and tutor you.”
“They never make us feel like we’re dumb,” added Hubiak.
Nestich, who is Bezbatchenko’s neighbor, said he was intrigued by the program after seeing how nice Bezbatchenko’s garden was.
“My garden was not very attractive, and Mary’s is absolutely gorgeous,” said Nestich, also a Goodyear retiree. “She was always talking about her experience at Stan Hywet. I asked her if they needed help, and a week later she told me to come along.”
Hubiak, on the other hand, considered herself a pretty knowledgeable gardener before she began volunteering.
“I’m from a family of gardeners, but I wanted to know more about plants, and I figured this would be a good place to learn,” said Hubiak, of West Akron, who retired after 29 years at Old Trail School in Bath. “I learned so much here and I thought I knew so much before. The staff is willing to share information, and they’re really good people.”
Hubiak said her work at Stan Hywet has given her an outlet since she moved to a smaller home with little gardening space.
“This is where I come to get my gardening fix,” she said.
Lerch said the program is a great way for older adults to have a place to garden, especially if they have moved from their home to a condo or apartment.
“Seniors who don’t have a garden can come here,” Lerch said.
The Adopt-A-Plot volunteers said they spend about four hours a week on their plots.
“You’ve got to be able to be out in the rain and heat and not let that bother you,” Hubiak said. “By 12 o’clock we’ve had it (with the heat).”
Wesner said the gardens are tended regularly from May through October. Some of the volunteers work all year, helping prepare the grounds for the holiday light displays and then take them down at the first of the year.
The benefits to tending their plots are more than personal, the volunteers agreed. They often talk with visitors to the estate who ask about the perennials and annuals growing there.
“It’s fun to do gardening for our satisfaction but also for the enjoyment of others,” Hubiak said.
For more information about the
Adopt-A-Plot program, call Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens’
volunteer office at (330)
Mary Bezbatchenko and Dennis Nestich are volunteers who participate in the Adopt-A-Plot program at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. Photo courtesy of Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens