As long as there have been photographs of Cardiff Hill, the quaint little cottage now owned by Bella Erakko has been part of Hannibal’s landscape. The first house on the eastern end of the plateau known as Rock Street, its ornamental landscape serves as a vista to townsfolk and visitors alike. Located at the lighthouse landing, this horticultural oasis is situated as an extension of the visual panorama accessible to the hearty, who climb the steps all the way to the lighthouse proper.
Bella’s vision of creating a garden with color from early spring through late autumn has been a decade in the making. Her inspiration is the location.
The oft-climbed steps to the lighthouse are adjacent to Bella’s garden. A city-installed bench facing her yard affords stair climbers an opportunity to catch their breath while enjoying the natural setting.
It is at this spot that Bella has chosen to offer an interesting mix of cactus and iris and poppies.
“People walk by and say the garden is beautiful, we love walking by it,” Bella said. “That’s the whole reason I did it. I know what it’s like to be walking up the stairs by Rock Street. At this point you’re dead. I put in some pretty flowers to help people get the rest of the way up the steps. People are so grateful.
“I wasn’t a gardener when I came here,” she said. “I had an idea of what I wanted to do, and it kept growing, then took over.”
Bella doesn’t use any poisons in her flower garden. “There are three patches of poison ivy in a place where nobody goes,” so Bella leaves them alone.
Jessie Dryden , a volunteer activist who is partnering with the Hannibal Parks & Recreation Department on the city’s community garden project, taught Bella a natural way to keep the soil cool during hot weather. “She’s teaching me to do things in an organic and cheap way. It is all natural, and keeps the plants cool. Use cardboard, rather than plastic. Put down peat moss, then cardboard, then mulch. Do this around the plants you care about and those that are vulnerable.”
In April, she divides the perennials and moves some to new places. She buys new plants and puts them into the ground.
In May, she weeds and mulches the garden, devoting two to three hours of the day in maintenance.
In June and July, it is time to weed and water. “Candace and John Klemann would remind me to water.” Now that they have moved from Hannibal, “it is on me” to remember.
“I enjoy weeding and watering. I feel like I’m accomplishing something.”
She has an extensive hose system set up to a timer, and she takes advantage of the Board of Public Works offer of a separate meter to keep track of water used for outdoor use. Last year she received a sewer use rebate of $250.
The peonies were so prolific this year that Bella had to cut them back so that the mailman could get to her door.
She enjoys columbine because it stays green all summer long.
She brought a Jack in the Pulpit plant back from a visit to New England, and now there are at least four clumps growing at various places in the garden.
Poppies come up all through her garden. “It is not a weed if it is doing something pretty in a place that’s acceptable.”
A previous owner of the house, Hettie Marie Andrews, loved roses. In Hettie Marie’s honor, Bella has planted many roses in the garden. She prefers knock out roses and Buck Roses, which are a Midwestern rose. “Hettie Marie’s roses are back,” Bella said.
“Knock out roses have simple blossoms. They are a happy little rose that blooms all summer long, into October and even November. Buck roses will bloom as long, but they are not as prolific as knock out roses.”
Bella’s front yard consists of a vertical stone wall, interwoven with ivy, iris, poppies and wild roses. Her vision is to have color on this southern-facing edifice throughout the summer. She has dreams of terracing the wall to make it more accessible for weeding and watering, but for now, she is content to traverse the hillside herself, working as necessary to fulfill her colorful vision.
A cable cord, abandoned following a severe storm, serves as her sense of balance along the steep wall. Wearing hiking boots and holding on to her “rope,” she felt invincible - until last week. “I did a soft roll through the wild roses and bushes, from top to bottom,” she said.
Flowers create a quiet respite while climbing Cardiff steps
May 28, 2014 at 12:01 AM