( Column 13 / 2002)
"A commentary about creative people living in the small communities scattered through the hills and valleys of Central New York"
Published in The County Review
"Elva's Secret Garden"
Carefully landscaped terraces and peaceful garden paths, festooned with perennial flowers stand before you. It could be a painting, if it wasn't for the movement of the flowers in a gentle breeze, or the songs of the birds in the trees. This garden, hacked out of a rocky, bramble covered hillside, stands as a testament to Elva Hawken's skill as a gardener. Choosing plants and flowers that compliment each other, as well as planning the garden to provide a season long sequence of colorful blooms, takes the competence of a gardener, and the eye of an artist.
Often, when we think of art, the image of a painting on a wall, or a sculpture on a pedestal comes to mind, but not all artists work with traditional methods. Each of us will have our world enriched if we open our eyes and look around to see and appreciate all the touches of creativity that surround us. Such was the case earlier this Spring when I was fortunate enough to discover Elva's Secret Garden. On a back road outside of Oxford, New York, near Bowman Lake State Park, I was treated to the most beautifully landscaped garden, that I have seen in Chenango County. What a treat to wander through this serene setting, watching the earth put forth it's treasures for me to enjoy.
In order to create a work of art, one has to acquire the knowledge, materials and tools with which to work. Elva has nurtured her love for gardening, and, over the years, has accumulated a store of knowledge about perennials, their care, and cultivation. This knowledge allows her to place the plants in the correct setting for it's own needs, ensure there is always something in bloom through out the season, and to contribute to the overall aesthetics of the garden.
Elva and Ken Hawken started carving this garden out of the wild, overgrown hillside in their back yard about 8 years ago. Motivated by a love of gardening, they created this landscape for their own enjoyment, and for years few people knew it existed. The garden grew and flourished. Eventually Elva realized that she had more plants then her garden could support, and last year Ken volunteered half of the beds in his vegetable garden to be used as a flower nursery. This Spring, they hung a sign on the road reading: "Elva's Secret Garden" and offered the public the opportunity to: "Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens. Enjoy the flowers, birds, and butterflies. Relax and enjoy the quiet and fragrance of the tranquil setting. See the plants actually growing in Chenango County zone 4-5 conditions, then pick your choice of plants from our strip gardens, and they will be freshly dug for you." You will find over 30 different species, and many varieties to choose from, and Elva is happy to tell you all about any flowers, and answer your questions.
Elva and Ken request that you call them at (607) 336-2001 before coming over to ensure the best service. More information and pictures of Elva's Secret Garden can be found on the web site at www.lostvalleys.com.
Visit Elva's Secret Garden
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