Master gardener plans Paris presentation

PARIS, Pa. – Master Gardener Martha Swiss will give a presentation on garden design and discuss gardening tips during a free luncheon at noon Wednesday at the Paris Presbyterian Church’s Gathering Place Coffee Shop located at 127 Steubenville Pike.

“I’ll talk about the basic principals of garden design so that it’s easy to understand and apply to your own garden,” Swiss said.

Swiss will have photos and a slide show to demonstrate those principals – most important, color, form and pattern – and to showcase gardens she finds particularly well-planned.

“Sometimes, we are drawn to something without understanding why we find it pleasing,” she said.

She compared designing a garden to architecture, noting many of the principals of good architectural design can be applied to garden design, especially the use of shape and pattern.

“Spring’s a busy time, and you’ve got a lot to do, and when you want to get out there, the weather doesn’t always cooperate,” she said, adding that spring – and fall – are good times to get on top of weeding, since the invasive plants don’t grow as quickly as in the summer. “That’s the thing with gardens – you can’t force it. There’s a right time to do everything.”

Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive, and Swiss will discuss lost-cost gardening, including plant and cutting swaps.

“Gardeners are very generous people,” she said. “You can do it very inexpensively. For example, you don’t have to buy compost, you can make it from leaves, and some areas have municipal composting programs.”

Information on gardening is available through the Internet and books, as well, she said.

Swiss also will give tips for success in a variety of gardens, from container gardens to vegetable gardens.

Swiss, who lives in Robinson Township, obtained her master gardener certification through Pennsylvania State University. The training took place during two semesters from Penn State Extension agents and university professors, who gave seminars and led practical field trips in the hands-on program. As part of the program, master gardeners are required to provide 50 volunteer hours in the first year and 20 volunteer hours and 10 hours of continuing education classes each year thereafter to keep their certification.

“You learn something new every day,” she said of gardening. “You never stop learning.”

She is a garden designer by trade and does private garden design through her company, Martha Swiss Garden Design.

“I’ve been fascinated by plants and gardening since I was a child,” she said.

Swiss is involved with the establishment of the Pittsburgh Botanical Garden at Settler’s Cabin Park. The park, which is in its first stage and will include planned expansions, will open to the public in August.

“It’s something that’s been 20 years in the making,” Swiss said, noting the garden would have diverse areas including European woods, Asian pond garden and orchards and areas suitable for a wedding, including an 18th century barn that has been on the property since it was an orchard.

Using passive limestone treatment, the garden will be one of the first to be built over a reclaimed brownfield. When finished, the garden will include a variety of teaching and display gardens and wooded areas, concert space, several miles of hiking and walking trails, a visitors’ center and research facilities. Volunteers will lead programs and workshops on gardening.

Swiss has written for the Pennsylvania Gardener Magazine, Fine Gardening and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She writes for the botanical garden’s newsletter, “Bloom.” She graduated from Chatham College’s landscape design program.