The home of John and Chris Sebroski is one of five showcased on Garden Art, the 23rd annual garden tour hosted by Beaver Area Memorial Library on June 22.
CENTER TWP. — John and Chris Sebroski’s home sits high atop a steep slope, so steep that when the couple moved here in 2003, Chris parked on the street for three days before mustering courage to drive up the driveway.
But she fell in love with the two-story home built in 2000 that has a brick façade, clay-colored siding, and hip roofs.
“What I really liked about it,” she said, “it looks European, not a cookie-cutter house.”
The couple and their two children, then in fourth and seventh grades, moved to Beaver County from Paden City, W.Va., a community about 40 miles south of Wheeling, due to John’s job relocation.
The property had some landscaping in front, but nothing more than a few “scraggly trees” in back, Chris said.
“Believe it or not, rather than unpack I was out here chopping them down,” she said.
John calls the place Chris’ “green half acre.”
“My husband, he’s a pretty good supporter. He’s not a gardener, but he’ll help me because he loves me,” she said.
In ensuing years, the couple transformed the property from nondescript to stunning showplace, one that will be highlighted June 22 on Beaver Area Memorial Library’s 23rd annual garden tour, along with four other properties in Beaver and Brighton Township.
Chris is not a Master Gardener — she studied marketing, English and interior design at Ohio University — but has a masterful eye for design when it comes to plant selection, harmony, color and perspective.
Two things influenced her love of gardening.
Her grandparents owned a 50-acre farm where they grew food for themselves and livestock.
When she and John first married in the late ’80s, they lived in Paden City in a kit house sold by Sears, Roebuck and Company that the retailer sold from the early 1900s to 1940.
“The whole street looked the same,” she said, a neighborhood of mostly retirees. They were the youngest couple.
“Everybody had really nice yards,” Chris said, and would share garden tips and cuttings.
“I loved it,” she said.
Soon, her garden grew and looked nice, too, so much that she wanted to share her bounty.
Each spring as she divided plants, she’d load her children’s wagon — daughter Megan Sebroski now lives in Knoxville, Tenn., where she is a special education teacher; son, Chad Sebroski lives in Providence, R.I., and teaches music in Bedford, Mass. — and they’d go door to door asking if anyone wanted cuttings.
“When we left, the entire street threw us a party,” she said.
Louie, an outgoing and curious Labradoodle, led a tour of the property beginning at the bottom of that steep drive where the mailbox is surrounded by a lovely bed of mixed perennials.
“It’s one of my favorite gardens on the property,” Chris said. “I love this. There’s always something in here blooming.”
It is eye catching: holly, yellow Stella D’Oro day lilies, purple coneflower, hyacinths, catchfly, clustered bell flowers, dark pink guara, ornate kale, crane’s-bill, Russian sage, creeping Jenny, coral bells, yarrow.
“It’s kind of a hodgepodge,” she admitted, but reasoned more plants mean fewer weeds.
You have to look closely, but there’s a decorative wheelbarrow in there, too.
A garden hook holds a vintage metal watering can from which dangle glass beads to give the illusion of water sprinkles.
Five solar-powered, box-style lamp posts illuminate the property that “make it look like a park at night,” she said.
Chris spent six weeks reworking landscaped beds in front of the house.
“I took out a few things here,” she said — mostly junipers — and added a variety of plants, shrubs and trees, including hosta, black-eyed Susan, ground phlox, coral bells, Crimson King maple, dwarf spruce, euonymous shrubs, miniature limelight hydrangea, barberry, knockout roses, and variegated boxwood.
Pink vinca vine spills from a window box.
Lime green shutters, a bold choice, pop.
“I fell in love with the color,” Chris said, and she’s trying to incorporate more lime green plants in her landscaping.
Matching Amish-made Adirondack chairs, also in lime green, sit beneath a river birch.
“River birch is one of my favorite trees,” she said. “On really hot, summer days when there isn’t a breeze at all, look up at the leaves and they’re always moving so you get a sense of feeling cooler when it’s not.”
Even more beauty awaits in back.
First you hear a soothing sound and then spot the source — a lovely waterfall cascading into a 2-foot deep pond filled with goldfish.
This is the second summer they’ve enjoyed it.
“We dug forever,” Chris said. They added a liner and framed the 17x22-foot pond with Maryland stone.
“The second rock down — the big one — is the divorce rock,” she joked. “We thought we’d get a divorce before we got it up there,” she said of the stone about 4 inches thick, 3 feet wide and 4 feet long.
“We limped around that whole summer.”
Maiden grass flanks the waterfall and pink guara, day lilies, salvia, Veronica, moonbeam coreopsis, coral bells, hosta, and lace-leaf Japanese maple encircle the pond.
Another pair of lime green Adirondack chairs faces the serene setting.
Toward the back of the yard is a fenced-in, 30x30-foot area filled with “whatever I like,” Chris said, a mixture of perennials, annuals and vegetables in raised beds.
This garden, patterned after an English garden, is “not meant to be serious. It’s meant to be a hobby,” she said.
Four 18x11 triangular beds frame the perimeter and four 6x6 boxes in a diamond pattern form the middle.
She got the idea from a magazine.
“I really like it,” Chris said. “Every year I plant something a little different.”
She planted a variety of peppers, pole beans, radishes, carrots, onions, eggplant, kohlrabi, herbs, Swiss chard, and about 15 kinds of cherry tomatoes.
Cosmos, foxglove, scabiosa, Shasta daisies, Veronica, pinky winky hydrangea, petunias, creeping Jenny, lamb’s ear, nasturtium, Russian sage, butterfly bush, sunflowers, speedwell, lavender, delphinium, and Mexican hyssop are among the plants.
“If I were doing a formal space, I would have stuck with a handful of plants with repetition…I don’t feel like there’s really any rules. I think sometimes your mistakes are your best mixtures of plants.”
Harlequin honeysuckle climbs an arch entrance, perfuming the yard when in bloom.
Chris said her favorite time of day is here on weekend mornings with a cup of coffee.
She tends a shade garden, too, with lily of the valley, astilbe, coral bells, catnip, columbine, sedum, crane’s-bill and ferns.
Chris pointed to a Canada red chokecherry tree. New growth sprouts green, but turns red as it ages.
She learned of the ornamental tree from reading a Nora Roberts’ novel.
“I looked it up and bought one,” Chris said.
A chicken coop — yes, dill green with red roof — houses her garden tools.
Two gardens on the property’s perimeter are shared with neighbors.
“I got really lucky,” Chris said. “I love my neighbors on both sides. Thank goodness they are flower ladies.”
The Sebroskis added a pergola off the home’s rear deck. They also took half of the deck and converted it into a dynamic sunporch last fall. Its 14 windows offer a panoramic view.
The lime green theme continues on the deck in two planters lush with vivid contrast-color plants: calibrachoa, a type of petunia; sweet potato vine and purple leaf canna.
Chris had a confession: “They’re cheater planters from Lowe’s.”
A round dining table of all-weather, no-maintenance Polywood is lime green, too. Coleus is planted in decorative rooster pots that were gifts from neighbors. A chicken feeder that reminds her of her grandparents’ farm is filled with 10 varieties of lettuce.
“I try to do a backyard similar to a gentleman farmer — somebody who farms strictly for pleasure and not having to worry if you have enough to eat or to sell — just a hobby.”
Chris said she’s not into antiques but likes nostalgia. That’s why you’ll see whimsical, decorative items cleverly interspersed in garden beds. For example, there’s a seafoam green Huffy bicycle she picked up at Rogers Community Auction in Ohio; vintage, red Hawthorne bike; Radio Flyer tricycle she rescued from trash; $3 chair from a thrift shop; old water pumps; sundial; gazing balls, and two red metal rams grazing on the lawn that she bought on clearance from Plow & Hearth.
“I just like them,” she said, adding that they reflect this year’s garden tour theme: “Garden Art.”
The Sebroskis share their land with birds, bees, butterflies and bats and have erected homes for all.
She loves having bees pollinate her gardens.
“You get double the fruit or flower production by having them.”
Years ago Chris bought a birdhouse at a five-and-dime store.
“The same family of birds has lived there 15 years,” she said.
They enjoy watching birds migrate each season.
“I guess the pond draws them,” she said. Sometimes they feed and rest in their yard two to three days.
Chris gets her ideas from magazines like “Pennsylvania Gardener,” “Country Gardens,” “The English Garden,” and the BBC gardening show “Big Dreams, Small Spaces” hosted by British horticulturalist Monty Don.
She drives around landscaped neighborhoods for inspiration, too.
“My favorite thing to really look at is restaurant landscaping or businesses because they usually have professionals do it.”
If she sees something she really likes, she gets out of the car and measures spacing between plants.
She shares and accepts cuttings from friends.
“I’m not a big seed person,” she said, but this year she bought a lot from Rural King.
“As far as any nursery here, I’ve probably been to all at one time or another. Of course, I love the fall clearances,” she said, especially when she wants to experiment with a plant. “That’s a good way to do it.”
She takes one project at a time, “that way it’s not overwhelming and you get better as you go. Some years I go back and work on a project I’ve already completed because I learn a lesson.”
Her biggest mistake, she said, was planting Canadian hemlock trees in a straight line as a privacy fence at the rear of her property.
“I don’t think nature plants things in straight lines. If I had to do it over, I would have staggered them.”
Now, she’s eyeing her next project: a rock patio off the sunporch with a bistro look.
Chris said she’s gone on several garden tours in past years “because I like gardening and I wanted to see other people’s gardens. I feel confident mine is of interest, too.”