Senior Alumni in Their Gardens


by John Hickey ’69


When it comes to tending grass, flowers, and produce, there are two descriptors. If you enjoy it, it’s called gardening; if not, it’s called yardwork. Below, thirteen senior Domers fondly describe—in most cases—their gardening adventures.


Jack Bergen ’77

Boston, Ma., Plant hardiness zone 6a

"Before" & "After"

As a pandemic project, my husband and I decided to turn a section of our backyard into a garden, or as we call it “the allotment.” After tree removal, ground leveling, many visits to Home Depot, and moving thirty-plus yards of soil and stone, we ended up with a beautiful 50’ X 36’ raised bed garden. The allotment includes many vegetables, flowers, a trellis, several benches, and a live-edge bar for entertaining. This garden has turned into our happy place we visit every day to watch things grow. It exceeded our expectations!


Jim Burke ’69

Northbrook, Ill., Plant hardiness zone 5b


We moved to a ranch house six years ago. The previous owners were active gardeners and left us with many unnamed flowering perennials, hydrangeas, hostas, pear and apple trees, and a few rose bushes. This season we utilized three raised beds to grow from seed: squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and TOMATOES—by the dozens. We also have planted raspberry bushes, echinacea, and a couple of azaleas. We are not preppers, but it is fun to see them come up.



William Costantini ’69
Naples, Fla., Plant hardiness zone 10a



Bored during the COVID lockdown, I decided in the spring of 2020 to try my hand at grafting orchids onto our pygmy palm trees. Over our forty-seventy years of marriage, my wife, Susan, and I had established the unenviable record of killing off orchids we tried to cultivate indoors. Now living in Southwest Florida, we moved our latest orchids outdoors—and they offered us a glimmer of hope. The results: All twelve orchids I grafted onto the palms survived and actually flourished this spring.



Kate Sarb Elkins ’78

South Central Penn., Plant hardiness zone 6b



After living all of our lives in mid to large-size cities, we bought our forever home in a little one-stoplight town in Central Pennsylvania. For the first time, we had space and an unobstructed view, and I could exercise my, until-then, frustrated passion for gardening. I never imagined at the time that this garden would be my saving grace, providing desperately needed therapy for my soul. No matter how crazy it got out there this past year, nurturing and caring for these forces of nature reminded me that there is still good and beauty in this world.



John Hickey ’69

Milwaukee, Wisc., Plant hardiness zone 5a



I began gardening our almost plantless, mostly shaded city lot in 2006, and received my Master Gardener certification in 2015. The back garden features a waterfall and pond with Bergenia, daylilies, Jack Frost Brunnera, ligularia, Virginia bluebells, and various ferns, heurica, and hosta. The front garden has many of the same plants plus allium, astilbe, Canadian ginger, crocosmia, Muscari, narcissi, ornamental grasses, pachysandra, tulips, and varieties of Japanese maples and bushes. The sunny south garden has rose bushes and lavender in the front with pollinator plants: bee balm, butterfly weed, lupine, Rudbeckia, and varieties of coneflowers, milkweed, and sedums. It’s a joy to tend.



Diane and Steve Kavalauskas ’69

Shorewood, Wisc., Plant hardiness zone 5b



Our small urban garden includes a variety of evergreens, small trees, bushes, and perennials. The garden has evolved over forty-two years with the assistance of landscape designers along with our own ideas. A fountain and feeders attract birds, and various pieces of yard art add interest. In summer, my wife designs fourteen hanging and standing pots with annuals to add continuous color. My job is to keep everything watered. I have a 4’ x 8’ raised bed and multiple large pots where I grow vegetables and herbs in our alley. We eat most meals on our patio, enjoying the surroundings!



Cindy Elshoff Lupica ’80

Los Angeles suburbs, Plant hardiness zone 10a



I live in an area blessed with a year-round growing season and incredible access to all types of flora. However, an absence of rainfall coupled with an ongoing drought often makes me green (pun intended) with envy when viewing gardens in water-rich parts of the country. Despite my water challenges, I do tend to many varieties of flowers and fruit trees. Also, each spring, I plant a vegetable garden that includes seedling heirloom tomatoes from our local botanical garden, as well as many types of squash, peppers, eggplants, and herbs. We love to share our bounty. 


Albert Lutz ’69

Jacksonville, Fla., Plant hardiness zone 9a



A Meyer lemon tree planted in 2014 has had a varied history of output. The first year OK; the second a bumper crop; followed by several OK, and then another big one. Last year, the tree had a robust array of blossoms—too early for the pollinating bees to do their thing. Hence another modest crop. This year, we expected big things after perfect conditions—mild winter, lots of blossoms, and willing bees. Alas, most of the pollinated blossoms failed to take, and we are looking at the smallest crop ever. Maybe this story will keep fellow Domers from citrus farming. 



Peggy Barron and Jim Lyons ’69

Milwaukee, Wisc., Plant hardiness zone 5a



Our garden has four separate sections. Three garages frame the back garden, making it feel almost like a secret garden. The central feature there is a Roman-style fountain with the essential Catholic garden Saint Francis and Saint Fiacre statues. The front garden is very formal, also with a classical water feature—an upright obelisk-type fountain; we love the sound of the water. In the summer, there are annuals and perennials—primarily iris, lilies, and roses. I've planted hundreds of bulbs these past seventeen years for a beautiful spring show. The garden thrived with my attention, particularly during last summer's isolation.



Tom “T.D” Paulius ’76

Orland Park, Ill., Plant Hardiness Zone 5b



I was lucky enough when I retired, and we downsized to find a good townhouse that had a 104-square-foot area next to the rear deck to accommodate a garden. I am an artist, printmaker and photographer in my retirement, so I planned for flowers that would attract pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds while reflecting the bright, vibrant colors of God's palette. As such, the garden provides me with numerous subject matter for prints and paintings that can be found at Old Fieldhouse Press on Facebook.



Lynda and Patrick Sarb ’76, ’78M.S.

Elkhart, Ind., Plant hardiness zone 6a


A new home, no gardens, and no trees equals a challenge for this hosta-loving family. Having potted up over 200 plants from the old garden of 30 years, Pat and I embarked on an adventure of creating new gardens here in Elkhart.  The ease of digging in sandy soil led to the frustration of faster drainage and few nutrients. I have transformed a 3300 square-foot space in eight months into a garden with two Celtic trinities and shade cloths to cover the hosta. Working in the garden brings peace to our souls.



Michael Staub ’78

Monmouth County, N.J., Plant hardiness zone 7a



My wife, Maureen ’78, challenged me to start a garden two weeks into the pandemic. My eighteen-month experiment with a 60’ x 120’ garden has been a diversion I would recommend to anyone. Lessons learned: 1) Soil, Soil, Soil: The more loose, friable, and full of compost the better; 2) Garden vertically—allows you to plant companion plants and to see any bugs; 3) Tomatoes— prune mercilessly, except cherry tomatoes; 4) YouTube is your friend—my favorites are Next Level Gardening, Jersey Guy Garden, Wicking Tubs with an 87 year old; 5) Line up people and organizations that will take your “extras.” I guarantee you will have some.



Cathy Wedelstaedt ’79

Poulsbo, Wash., Plant hardiness zone 8b



The temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest makes it the ideal location to grow rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas. Our gardens contains a collection of these plants, plus dogwoods, heavenly bamboo, ornamental grasses and four raised bed vegetable plots. Tending to our garden requires a fair amount of effort, but truly worth the time for the joy and beauty it brings us.


Upcoming Edition: Request for Your Pictures - Now that travel is resuming, we are looking for images for an upcoming article called “Traveling Domers”. Send along a picture of yourself (and others) in ND attire while traveling away from home.  This could be from a recent past trip (2018 on) or an upcoming one.  Note - I am scheduled to go on a trip to France with other Domers in late September, so there will surely be plenty of pics from that trip! Contact John Hickey (with the picture(s), location and year) at

Other news