Pa. man runs no garden-variety garden

September 16, 1999

Green Grove GardensBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: KEVIN G.GILBERT / staff photographer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - If Jerry Martin's sign was mobile, it could make the Rose Bowl Parade.

Martin, 54, is building a 125-foot steel flower bed that will spell out Green Grove Gardens in 8-foot letters with 3,000 chrysanthemums. It will be planted in reinforced concrete and held by a hydraulic system to an angle of 75 degrees. He wants it to be visible to motorists passing by on a stretch of Buchanan Trail East 1,300 feet away.

Martin started building the bed earlier this week when the steel arrived. He wants it completed by Sept. 24, the start of the three-day Green Grove Gardens grand-opening celebration.

The garden at 1032 Buchanan Trail East is 15 acres of lawn, fountains, waterfalls and 60,000 annuals. They grace part of the 45 acres that until a decade ago was his dairy farm.


A carpenter by trade and a flower gardener by avocation, Martin, 54, has spent the last 10 years turning the farm into a botanical garden that draws about 4,000 people a year, some by bus from across Pennsylvania.

"About a dozen buses come through a year bringing people here from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and all points between," Martin said.

Visits to Green Grove Garden, named by Martin because it sits halfway between Greencastle and Shady Grove, Pa., are free, although donations are accepted. It is also, for a fee, the site of about a dozen weddings every year, plus family reunions and church and company picnics.

"We don't make it on the donations, but the rentals make it self-supporting," he said.

"I just decided to do this. Nobody twisted my arm. It's just something I wanted to do," Martin said of his creation.

He adds more gardens every year. His next project is to tackle a huge limestone formation he calls "the rock." He envisions it with a waterfall with a wooden bridge over it.

There are a nearly a dozen flower gardens on the property. All were planted by Martin and his wife, Arlene.

The larger ones have more than 10,000 flowers and are outlined with paved walks. Settees are placed for the convenience of visitors.

With its open sides and lattice ceiling, a 16-by-75-foot pergola Martin built is the focal point of the gardens. It has tables and benches where visitors can rest and meditate while looking out over the main garden and its huge fountain, which is fed by 44,000 gallons of water.

Another corner holds a replica of an old grist mill with its own working water wheel. Martin built that, too. Beyond that is a 12-foot waterfall framed by flower gardens. On top is the pond that feeds the falls. Another pond is home to 60 large goldfish and koi. The greenhouses are behind the fish pond.

In the back of the property near the 10-acre cornfield that Martin planted this spring are 6,000 mums, a riot of color. Half of them will become Martin's makeshift billboard.

He said he almost had "to throw in the towel this year" because of this summer's drought, but he kept on watering and saved his gardens.

Much of the property is watered by an underground irrigation system fed by wells. He couldn't do much about the heat, so his flowers aren't as full as they have been in other years, he said.

"They're looking better now with the cool weather," he said.

He said he's hoping for a successful grand-opening celebration.

He hired a company to bring in at least seven large hot-air balloons. Rides will be available for visitors and there will be a sky diving exhibition from the balloons.

Carriage and hay rides around the gardens will be free, as will a trip through the corn maze.

Martin hired eight people to cut the maze through the 10 acres of corn.

There will be food concessions and the sale of mums, pumpkins, gourds and corn stalks.

Members of the Marion Volunteer Fire Department will park cars in the field in front of the gardens.

The celebration runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sept. 24 and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 25 and 26.

Admission is $6.

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