With more than an acre and a half of yard he maintains meticulously, you’d think that John Krolikowski always has had an interest in gardening.
“No,” he said. “I did it by default. I got the short straw. My wife wouldn’t do it.”
MaryAdele Krolikowski, his wife, doesn’t dispute that fact.
“What I’ve said to everyone who’s asked, ‘You have to talk to John,’” she said.
Participants in the 29th annual Garden Tour benefiting Mt. Lebanon Public Library, scheduled for July 14, will have lots to talk about when they visit the Krolikowski home on Roycroft Avenue, one of eight featured this year.
The expansive property is home to a wide variety of vegetation, highlighted by 95 mature trees that are numbered and identified by species.
“When we moved in, it had been overgrown a bit,” John said. “The backbone of the property was here, with all the stonework and the pathways, but we had to sort of find them.”
Among the early orders of business, he said, was removing dozens of pine trees that had grown to heights of 50 feet or more.
“They had sort of taken over the property,” he said. “You weren’t getting any light underneath.”
These days, depending on the time of year, visitors are likely to see daffodils, rhododendron or Virginia bluebells in bloom, alongside trees including Kousa dogwood, black cherry, sassafras, yew and Japanese maple. Another tree is sugar maple, from which the Krolikowskis make syrup.
“It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon,” John said. “So that’s about all we do.”
At the heart of the property is a stone house constructed in 1938, with an addition built in the 1980s. The Krolikowskis are the third owners, moving there from what John calls “a normal-sized house” elsewhere in Mt. Lebanon.
They decided to buy after their real estate agent told them the house had something to offer,
“This is more house than you’re looking for, but it’s unique,” John recalled the agent saying.
A few blocks away, on Ordale Boulevard, the home of Mark and Elizabeth Mortimer has some features that will make their stop on the garden tour a somewhat different experience.
Around back is a fairy garden, full of tiny, colorful homes and smaller-yet accessories that brighten a corner of the yard. And nearby, situated under the 85-year-old house’s rear deck, is Uncle Paul’s Poultry Palace.
It seems Paul Thompson, Elizabeth’s uncle, raised chickens and was encouraging the couple to do the same at their previous residence.
“He started sending us all these books when were in Peters Township, and we said, ‘Paul, we can’t have chickens,’” Mark recalled. “Finally, we moved here and he said, ‘OK, I’m going to send you a chicken.’”
And so the Mortimers built a coop for hens that produce plenty of eggs that they are happy to give to folks who enjoy a good breakfast. Protective wiring encloses the coop’s yard, which allows the birds to get exercise without roaming too far and without worries about predators.
“We have read and done a tremendous amount of research about chickens,” Mark said. “When we get everyone here during the garden tour, it’s my hope to show them some things that they might not be aware of. It’s amazing to me what we forget about, like, high school biology. So there’s the whole: Are there roosters in here? How do they lay eggs?”
As for the fairy garden, the Mortimers became interested when their children were young, inspired by Tracy Kane’s 2001 book, “Fairy Houses,” which includes a section on how to build your own.
When they moved to Mt. Lebanon, they brought their garden with them and set it up in the front yard, encouraging parents who walked by to “feel free to come here, you and your kids, and just play,” Mark said.
Today, neighborhood youngsters still are invited to check out the relocated garden.
“It’s about imagination,” Mark explained. “We have fun with it, as adults, having that dialogue with kids and watching them play.”
Tickets for the self-guided garden tour, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 14, are available in advance for $15 at Mt. Lebanon Public Library or www.showclix.com/event/the-29th-annual-mt-lebanon-garden-tour. Tickets on the day of the tour are $20.
For more information, call 412-531-1912 or email email@example.com.