For Sharon Golm gardening has been a lifelong pursuit. Growing up on a farm she remembers days spent helping in the garden which was mostly vegetables but also a few flowers.
Since then she’s gardened at every home she and her husband Norm have owned. The driving force for her gardening effort? Curiosity. “Curiosity is what kept me going as an adult. I was interested in what works and what doesn’t work,” she says. “Gardening is a science project and every year is new. Even if you don’t change anything in the garden the differences in weather can make a big difference in how you garden from year to year.”
Through the years Sharon’s created several gardens, most with more formal layouts than her current garden north of Northport, Michigan. She designed each garden and then planted and tended them. “It was all fun and we’ve gardened in about every way possible,” she says, “But when we moved here I knew I didn’t want that.”
Instead, she and Norm envisioned a cottage garden – a colorful, livable and easily maintained space. “When we built this house, in a wooded setting, we thought it would be ideal to not have a formal lawn. In fact, we worked with the builder to save as many trees as possible.
Since building their home, though, Norm and Sharon have had to remove some of the trees they’d hope to save. But that has opened up the area for growing a greater variety of plants. “We have a variety of shade, partial shade and sun,” Sharon says. As the space was altered and the light available to plants changed, so did the Golm’s garden evolve. Tour participants will see a variety of plants, with low-growing fragrant sumac between the drive and the house, spiderwort and coral bells in areas of partial shade and of course traditional shade plants like hostas in the shadiest areas. Where trees have been removed, increasing the available light, Sharon now can grow lilies and even roses. Like most gardeners, Sharon describes her garden as a work in progress.
One of her biggest challenges in the garden is the septic field area across the driveway of their home. “Nature taking its course there would just lead to sand and weeds,” Sharon says. Instead she put in a universe garden, which has a big circle in the center and garden pods that spoke out from that. There you’ll find raised bed gardens filled with flowers and some of the few vegetables, like green beans, that Sharon grows. The rest is filled in with woodchips giving the area a more formal look.
Sharon expands her garden both with new purchases and with a lot of digging and dividing of her favorite perennials. “When I get ready to head outside Norm will say ‘Watch out plants, you don’t know where you’re going to end up’ and that’s the curiosity, the experimental part of my gardening – determining what will work best.”
For those who want to become gardeners, Sharon advocates about learning how to build an ecosystem in your garden, including all the information resources the internet has to offer. There, Sharon says, “You can find answers to every gardening question.” Novices, she advises, should “start small and learn about soil – that’s so important. And be conscious of the nutrients, too. When you start small and learn about soil, disease prevention and insect control you’ll be much more successful.”
To keep her soil and plants healthy Sharon spreads compost every other year and has a regular feeding rotation for her garden. And she follows her own advice and keeps things simple. Don’t fight the environment – consider the location – and plant accordingly,” she says.
Sharon and Norm Golm’s garden is located on Foxview Drive, north of Northport. It will be one of eight gardens on the Northport Area Heritage Association’s fundraising tour on July 31. The tour, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is $25. Students and children are free. Tickets are available at the Pennington Collection, Tamarack Gallery and the Northport Museum or they can be purchased the day of the tour at the various gardens.