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Spring has Sprung

‘Madison in Bloom’ to celebrate
24 years in May

Sullivans are among gardening
hosts for this year’s tour

(May 2013) – For Ted Sullivan and his wife, Linda, their garden showcases not only their appreciation of plants, but also happy memories of friends and family. Their “back forty,” as they jokingly term their 40 square yard backyard, is home to roses and peonies that were cared for by Linda’s grandmother, Ethel Browning.

Bloom Logo

• May 11-12 and May 18-19 in Madison, Ind.
• Tour hours: 10-4 Saturdays; noon - 4 p.m. Sundays
• Tour Headquarters at Madison Railroad Station & Heritage Center, 615 W. First St., Madison, Ind.
• Tour Highlights: Tour nine private and two public gardens in Madison’s National Historic Landmark District. Hospitality Stops located along the way.
• Tickets: $12 and children under 12 free. Available at the Jefferson County Historical Society, tour headquarters, 615 W. First St. or the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center, 601 W. First St.
• Information: (812) 265-2335 or visit: www.jchshc.org.

Their cedar fence was built by Ted and his friend, Louie Shields, out of wood grown in Jefferson County, Ind. “We had a good time together building it,” says Sullivan, who lives in downtown Madison, Ind..
And he can’t look at the bridge spanning the 900-gallon pond without recalling his two grown sons wildly jumping up and down to prove the strength of their work re-enforcing it. Sullivan grins, saying he told them that “it would have served them right to get wet,” but their confidence in the sturdy structure was well founded
The Sullivans’ inclusion on this year’s Madison in Bloom garden tour is a natural extension of the fact that their garden is frequently enjoyed by friends and neighbors. The fishpond with its flowing fountains has been a big hit with the next door neighbor, who jokes that he is able to enjoy it without having to bother with any of the work
“We have a lot of friends who have been here. They’ve seen the yard and how it progressed,” says Sullivan.
Madison in Bloom Garden Tour will run during the weekends of May 11-12 and May 18-19 in downtown Madison. It is organized by the Jefferson County Historical Society, which receives the proceeds.
“I think it really brings in spring for tourists,” said newly hired Executive Director John Nyberg of the 24th event. Last year’s event was cancelled after society members decided to begin holding it every other year.
This year’s tour will feature 11 gardens, which Nyberg notes is the largest number ever. Visitors will enjoy nine private gardens, two historic house museum gardens and two hospitality sites. Nyberg said he is also pleased to introduce the Firehouse Museum on Walnut Street as a hospitality site, noting that it is “a great little museum” and also believes that it offers “something for the guys.”

Ted Sullivan

Photo by Lela Bradshaw

Ted Sullivan poses in his garden, which he will display during Madison in Bloom.

In addition to offering a peek inside of private gardens rarely seen by the public, this year’s tour will also allow visitors a look back in time at two very different historical gardens. The formal garden of the Shrewsbury-Windle House is based on plans drawn by the late John Windle, who founded Historic Madison Inc. with his wife, Ann. In contrast, the Talbott-Hyatt Pioneer Garden is designed to portray a more casual flower and kitchen garden that would have been typical of the early 1800s.
Nyberg says the recent surge in interest in heirloom gardening and enthusiasm for organic foods helps make people more conscious of the gardens and plants around them. Many of the visitors to the gardens are looking for inspiration for their own landscapes, and Nyberg believes that the tour helps illustrate “ how creative you can be with space.”
The Sullivans have taken to heart the idea of creatively using the available space with the decision to go completely grass free in their backyard. “We decided we were tired of cutting the grass,” says Sullivan. With the small backyard it just made sense to dedicate the space to plants and garden decorations that they truly enjoyed. Even the area wildlife has gotten in to the spirit of making use of every square inch at the Sullivans’ house.
The Sullivans call the butterfly bush in the garden as “a gift from the birds,” speculating that the seeds were spread from the plant in the front of the house by an enterprising bird. “We didn’t think we could plant anything there,” he says of the tiny crevice, now home to the lovely bush.
The Sullivans’ garden shows just what can be accomplished using things that might be easily overlooked. One of the home’s rose bushes was a rescue, having been accidentally dug up at the house of Sullivan’s son while some plumbing work was being done. When his son announced that, “I don’t really want to mess with it,” Sullivan brought the plant home where it now flourishes.
Many of the yard’s decorations were discovered at flea markets, though the supplies used to build a potting center were found a bit closer to home. “We had some old doors in house that were sitting in the basement. We put them to good use.”
Today, those antique doors have a new life as a stylish and useful garden addition.
The Sullivans’ garden is not simply for summer afternoons. Careful planning and plant selection allows the couple to enjoy blooms for three seasons of the year. “We try to have something blooming all year long. We can enjoy it day or night,” Sullivan says.
He points out the solar lights by the path and says he and his wife particularly enjoy coming out in the evening and just listening to the water falling into the pond.
Sullivan says that the tour benefits both the visitors who come through the gardens and the homeowners who open their gardens for display. Having taken the garden tour many times in the past, the Sullivans say they “come home with ideas. Some things we see we like and some things we see don’t suit us.”
Sullivan also notes that there is nothing like a deadline to really get inspiration going. “If you ever want to get anything done around your house sign up for a tour,” Sullivan laughs. “You will get it done.”

• Madison in Bloom featured gardens will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $12.50 and available at the Jefferson County Historical Society, 615 W. First Street, Madison. For information, call (812) 265-2335.

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