2023 Garden Tour

Growing native species goal of Combs garden

A butterfly rests on a flower in the garden of Bill and Dianne Combs at 1418 W. Market St.
A butterfly rests on a flower in the garden of Bill and Dianne Combs at 1418 W. Market St.
Photos Provided

When Bill and Dianne Combs married in 1990, they came from two completely different growing backgrounds. Bill grew up on a dairy and grain farm, Dianne had grown flowers and vegetables for years. Dianne started in with a large vegetable garden, and as long as Bill could eat all the tomatoes he wanted, he didn’t fuss about the lawn slowly being taken over by her cottage flower garden.

Their garden at 1418 W. Market St. will be on display during the 16th Garden & Arts Tour sponsored by the Flower Lovers Garden Club. The tour, which features nine stops, will take place 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 25 (rain or shine).

Dianne gets her green thumb from her mother, Ann Hatfield, and her English grandfather, Harold, who raised food to feed the family during World War II and after. Dianne has visited many beautiful gardens in the UK, which probably explains her love of hydrangeas. Her collection begins with Bobo, a small, snowball-type bloomer, moves on to the native oakleaf, and on to the grand Limelight, which grows blooms almost too big to be true. Looking around, you’ll see that Dianne has some other obsessions in plant choices, as in ... how many dogwood trees can she plant in the front yard? Daylilies abound, in many different colors, a favorite being any two-tone bloom. Roses have found their place recently, some as edgings, some in pots.

Speaking of pots, Dianne recently repotted two large geraniums from last summer that spent the winter in a warm window at her mother’s house. Alongside these flowers are more geraniums, and a miniature rose. She has also planted several types of bush-type vegetables in pots in her recent interest in learning to garden differently as she ages. These will be scattered about the garden.

Growing native species is a goal for Dianne. A fabulous native tree addition along the front fence is an American ash that was planted by either a squirrel or a bird. A large oak alongside the driveway began its life in a Purdue greenhouse. Redbuds are scattered about the edges. Native flowers include Ohio spiderwort, Zizia aurea (golden Alexander), varieties of milkweed, beebalm, black-eyed Susans, brown-eyed Susans, coneflowers and more. The state flower, the peony, not a native of Indiana (let’s change that), appears on the westside as a memorial to both of the couple’s fathers. Most annuals you will see have been grown from seed in the backyard greenhouse.

A sweet spring ephemeral shade garden on the east side of the house is filled with bleeding heart, bloodroot, wood poppy, trillium and squirrel corn. In mid-May, a Jack-in -the-pulpit pops up, near the dainty little primroses that live in the same bed.

Dianne can often be seen around the neighborhood in late autumn collecting leaves for her compost heaps in her little blue truck. In her quest to use natural garden methods, she has several compost areas scattered about the property. She grows comfrey to use as fertilizer, compost accelerator and mulch. Fish emulsion, along with rotted sheep and rabbit manure are utilized as organic fertilizers. She is probably the only person on the block who rakes leaves into her garden in the fall, using them as winter protection for plants and any small insects and critters who live there.

To purchase tour ticket, visit Progreen Garden Center, Davidson Greenhouse, Country Hearts & Flowers, Milligan’s Flowers, Montgomery County Visitors Bureau, Just Because, Athens Art Gallery and Crawfordsville District Public Library. Athens Art Gallery is a bonus stop on the tour. Tickets are $12 per person and children age 12 and younger admitted free. Proceeds go towards community beautification.


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