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Railroad District garden finally gets its due

Several times recently the selection committee of the Ashland Garden Club has been asked why the wonderful property at 100/120 Sixth St. has not been a Garden of the Month. It’s because we thought it already had been.

We started noticing it as soon as the owners started planting. But they were going along deliberately, and at first many of the plantings seemed much the same size. Although it was wonderful, we thought we’d wait until more things matured. Then, the next thing we knew, it was an established part of the neighborhood and we just assumed it already had been acknowledged.

Now that is corrected. Cory Ross and Greg Conaway’s delightful garden is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for September.

The couple never involved a professional landscape designer and really never drew up their own comprehensive plan. But they did have a family history of gardening; the help and advice of friends and neighbors (most consistently, Edward Madson); sensible ideas for how to make the landscape work (such as cooling south walls on buildings); and, most importantly, artistic tendencies.

In late 2013, Conaway and Ross purchased the church, its outbuildings and parking lot at the corner of Sixth and C streets, then proceeded to convert the church into their home and build a secondary living unit next door, now occupied by friends. Before the construction was complete they started to garden in the parking strip with low-water-use plants after removing the thirsty grass that was there — utilizing the city of Ashland’s lawn replacement program. They have in all a third of an acre in the heart of the Railroad District.

In 2017 they installed a deer fence and started in earnest planting what was essentially a blank slate with nothing but three trees inside the fence.

They started with favorite shade and fruit trees, then added roses with sentimental attachment such as Jacob’s Coat, Mr. Lincoln and Double Delight. Since then they’ve been given Lady Banks and Cecile Bruner roses that they also love, as well as many other plants that generous gardeners shared.

They plant to encourage birds and insect pollinators. Sunflowers abound in season, growing up to seven feet tall in berms and two feet tall in the flats that still have much gravel from days when it was the church parking lot. Raised beds now support edibles.

They’ve had success with kiwis, Japanese maples, a smoke tree, trident maple, lots of berries and apples as well as many natives. Cory says that California poppies are their “cover crop” but that she would like to try a wildflower variety in the future. She calls it a “survival of the fittest” garden: When something works, they plant more; if it doesn’t, they try something else.

Both Cory and Greg average several hours per week working in the yard. They have occasional help with major digging projects and seasonal cleanup. They find the work peaceful and relaxing. To see a gorgeous video they produced for the virtual Pollinator Garden Tour this year, go to https://youtu.be/qALT2GMi8Rg. Looking at it now, it’s hard to recognize that this garden has been here such a short time.

The Ashland Garden Club has been selecting Gardens of the Month, from April through September since 2000. Nominations are gratefully received at aogardenclub@gmail.com. Check out the club’s website at www.ashlandorgardenclub.org or attend meetings at 12:30 p.m. the first Monday of the month, October through May, when COVID-19 precautions allow.

Larry Rosengren photo Cory Ross and Greg Conaway’s delightful garden is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for September.
Larry Rosengren photo Cory Ross and Greg Conaway’s delightful garden is the Ashland Garden Club’s Garden of the Month for September.