Decades of gardening paid off for a Chippewa Lake woman, who has been named Gardener of the Year by the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs.
Gisela Mattingly was awarded the title this month in recognition of her self-taught skills in gardening.
“I was stunned,” Mattingly said. “I’m the president of a local garden club and half the members showed up and surprised me when I won. That was really special.”
When she and her husband, Paul, moved to Chippewa Lake in 1986, their yard was unimproved. Mattingly had no formal gardening training, but managed to turn the yard into a practical botanical garden after earning her green thumb through practice and reference to books, magazines and fellow gardeners.
Almost 30 years later and their yard has been featured on local home and garden tours because of its “unique beauty,” according to the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs.
Mattingly’s garden includes colorful perennials, annuals and roses arranged around a koi pond at the focal point. Among the plants are hundreds of tulips — her favorite — which she carefully selects from catalogs to obtain a perfect variety and quantity.
She said her work as a gardener is never complete.
“It’s trial and error; it’s never finished,” she said. “I think we have more garden than grass now.”
The garden association said in a media release that Mattingly’s work is one of a kind.
“Walking the garden, your eyes feast on changing patterns and colors everywhere you gaze. Seasonal changes bring new surprises,” the garden association wrote in the release. “Paths wander amid the flowers and shrubs, accented by ornamental sculpture pots, and passing through draped trellises.”
Mattingly said she spends at least six hours a day, seven days a week, in the garden from mid-April to early July and in September and October, when the growing season comes to an end. Even in the offseason, she devotes time to her garden by hanging thousands of decorative lights.
Mattingly, who serves as president of the Briarwood Beach Garden Club in Chippewa Lake, works to share her passion for gardening with the community. Among many projects, the club has created a community garden for residents to grow their own vegetables.
She said she has only a few words of wisdom for would-be gardeners.
“Just keep working at it and eventually it will all come together,” she said. “Be a gardener and not a landscaper. For a gardener, there’s always room for one more plant.”