From the time she was a little girl growing up in Newton Falls, Bernie Powell was surrounded by gardens.
Family photos of the house on Columbia Avenue, enclosed by flowers, vegetables and a fruit orchard, show the abundance of plants that were just a part of her garden experience. The home, originally owned by her foster-grandmother and later by her mother and father, was where Bernie first planted her own flowers.
''One year, my dad let me plant flowers in front of the coal shoot,'' Bernie said. ''They were morning glories, and we had strings strung up that went in front of the kitchen windows.
Dick and Bernie Powell stand in one of the many garden rooms at their home in Newton Township. The Powells have been working on the landscaping and gardens that surround their home since they were married 15 years ago.
The koi pond in the Powell gardens in Newton Township has suffered a few ups and downs in recent years with attacks by blue herons that love to prey on fish. The gardens are filled with mementoes that include gifts from family members and souvenirs from vacations.
''They totally blocked out the light coming into the kitchen,'' she said. ''The next year, my dad found me another spot to plant my flowers.''
Reminiscing about her childhood home, Bernie recounts not only flowers, but the huge vegetable garden as well as a fruit orchard and berry patches that her father enjoyed growing.
''He had everything you could think, raspberries, red and black and gooseberries, blueberries, apples and peaches,'' she said. ''And he did it on just two city blocks.''
Creating garden rooms
l Decide how to separate each ''room'' using plants and structures as dividers
l Areas easily divided are corners, either sides of trees or around buildings
l Add a water feature or seating area in each divided section
l Use plants or hardscape material that are similar in each room to unify the entire garden
l Use arbors as picture frames to lead the traveler from one room to another
In addition to the house on Columbia, Bernie, along with her two siblings, took turns visiting another grandmother who had a farm in southern Ohio. Every three years, she would get to spend a summer at the farm, where she would collect seeds from the Four-O'Clocks and make hollyhock dolls and snapdragon puppets, something she still does with her grandchildren.
Dick Powell didn't grow up surrounded by gardens, but discovered the pleasure of gardening at his former home on Church Street in Newton Falls.
''I didn't know what I was doing,'' Dick said, ''I just knew I liked to grow stuff.''
When Dick and Bernie married 15 years ago, they instantly began transforming their property in Newton Township. Together they gathered large stones from what was once the fenceline of a nearby farm and wheelbarrowed them to the yard to outline the garden beds. As each bed was created, meandering around large pines that were once family Christmas trees that now shaded the edges of the property, more and more garden rooms began to emerge.
A few years ago, the Powells dug by hand a 1,200 gallon koi pond where the water trickles from a multi-tiered stream and waterfall. But the loss of several koi a few years didn't deter them from creating even more water features that surround the property. They simply put up netting to keep the heron from getting into the pond and continued on.
''We can hear water running from every window inside the house,'' Bernie said.
The garden rooms, filled with pergolas, swings and other wooden features, many that Dick built himself, are filled with heirloom plants and their favorite flowers, including wisteria, azalea, honeysuckle, lilies and primrose.
There are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the sound of trickling water from either a fountain or small pond and depending on their mood, the Powells can decide to sit where there is either sun or shade.
Bernie's favorite place to sit is on a wooden bench facing the large koi pond shaded by the wisteria pergola and large rhododendron shrubs. Tucked in among the plants are several pieces of garden art they acquired while traveling or as gifts from friends and family members. There is even a toy monkey hanging from a small wooden swing hidden in a tree nearby. Stone pathways lead the traveler from one garden room to another where little surprises are tucked away among the plants.
Further out in the back yard is Dick's vegetable garden where he grows ''Aunt Jane's'' tomatoes, an unknown variety from seeds passed down through generations in Bernie's family.
''We used to call them Grandma Rubrake's tomatoes, but we got the seeds from Aunt Jane so now we just call them that,'' she said.
To avoid cross pollination from other varieties, they don't grow any other tomatoes, she said.
They spend about two hours each day working in the gardens that seem to grow a little larger each summer. And with both of them having a love of gardening, they are able to share that interest in their retirement years.
''We hate being inside the house all winter,'' Bernie said. ''As long as there isn't thunder and lightning, we even garden in the rain.''