Sunday, July 31, 2016

Gardening Wisdom

Add whimsy to a back porch with some colorful glass bottles. (Photo by Julie Campbell)

As a home and garden writer for a mid-sized daily newspaper, I meet the most fascinating folks. When people invite me to take photos and interview them about their most private sanctuaries their homes and gardens I feel I've been granted a remarkable privilege. Many times interviewees become friends whom I call for advice or meet for the occasional cup of coffee. 

One of my favorite interview subjects was Tom Sacilowski, son of a Polish immigrant who has lived in the same house his entire life. His home was an unassuming single story dwelling made extraordinary by the love and care he committed to every inch, including his garden. Even though he walks with a cane, his spirit and determination to beautify his home has not been limited. 

Here are a few excerpts and photos from my article on Tom that was published in the Herald Bulletin last year. I love this sweet man's outlook on life!

(Photo by Julie Campbell)

As a young boy in the 1930s, Tom Sacilowski loved working in the garden alongside his mother. Today, at age 89, not much has changed.

“I’ve been interested in gardening all my life,” said the retired bank vice president. “You get a good feeling that you’ve completed something when you’re done.”

The son of Polish immigrants, Sacilowski has lived his entire life in the same house just down the road from the former Nicholson File Company, where his father found work when he first arrived in America in 1909.

Sacilowski and his nine siblings were all born and raised in the home, a place that holds many precious memories for him.

“The best memory was always working in the garden,” he recalled. “My mother and I would work out in the garden all summer – plant potatoes and other vegetables and then we’d can them.”

Although the plants and trees in the yard have changed over the past 89 years, the benefits of working in the garden are just as valuable to Sacilowski. As he became an adult, he turned to gardening as a stress reliever.

“I worked in a bank all my life, and I would get tense so when I came home, I’d work out in the yard to relieve that tension.”

Sacilowski is also a Korean War veteran who served in the United States Army Infantry and was a recipient of the Bronze Star, a medal awarded for heroic service.

“I was proud to do it,” he said. “And I was lucky to get back.”

Now, as a senior citizen, Sacilowski enjoys the exercise he gets from gardening as well as the fruit of his labor.

“Tomatoes are my specialty,” he said, pointing out that the recent torrential rains have not been kind to his plants.

Asiatic lilies flourish in Tom's garden. (Photo by Julie Campbell)

In addition to tomato and zucchini plants, the neat, virtually weed-free yard also features ornamental grasses, rose bushes, Asiatic lilies, several different types of ivy and a fragrant patch of mint.

Gardening as a senior citizen is often a challenge, but Sacilowski said he has adapted his gardening to fit his stage of life.

“Right now I can’t get down on my hands and knees like I used to, but I can still garden. Well, I can get down on my knees, but I can’t get back up!” he said with a laugh.

Sacilowski recommends that his fellow “golden years” gardeners take advantage of the container gardening trend.

“I do most of my gardening in pots,” he said. “Right now I’m into these Calibrachoa flowers.”

(Photo by Julie Campbell)

Sacilowski creates vibrant pots by planting two or three different colors of the delicate blossoms in the same container. The effect is simply beautiful.

Another simple yet valuable piece of advice from Sacilowski to other senior citizens interested in gardening:  “Just do a little bit at a time.”

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