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Classmate's Garden Has Much in Common with Ours

Mary Ann Fry enjoys the same dogwood we can grow here, but it flowers and fruits more abundantly in her garden and in her climate.

My former Temple, Ambler College classmate, Mary Ann Fry and her husband Richard shared their home with me during a recent trip, also their garden with is many delights. While soaking up the sights I never see in Florida, I was surprised at the number of plants and goals that we have in common.

The Frys feed, water, and plant for the many birds that visit and gather just outside the bay window where the Frys eat and read the morning paper. "I can make a cup of coffee last two hours when I have the time. I've seen over a dozen gold finches on the feeder at once," Mary Ann says, "and I can get within three feet of the woodpecker before he flies away."

Both birds and squirrels were enjoying the fruit fall of the Japanese dogwood, often eating it on the picnic table. The fruits look almost like lychee fruits and some of them still have the four white flower petals attached from the glorious June bloom, that we also got to see this year on an earlier trip. Dozens of houseplants grace the wide windowsill indoors, so this view is warm and inviting even in winter.

Mary Ann had access to greenhouses during her teaching years and brought starts of several tropical plants with her when she recently retired. Her clivias bloom and bear seed there. Mine has never bloomed here.

She also has a white Bird of Paradise and some anthuriums in pots that she had already brought into a sunny but closed-in porch that she will heat with a space heater as needed during the winter. These plants go back out when spring comes and thrive over the summer. She will also bring in the pineapple sage, the many pots of amaryllis, and the fascinating Tradescantia sillamontana.

Of the other plants we have in common, her vitex or chaste tree will stay in the garden and she leaves the seed pods on for the birds. This year her nandina will have fruit for the first time. We both grow rose of Sharon, English lavender, violets, daylilies, hydrangeas, azaleas, and beauty berry. She has redbuds and hollies that also grow here, but more kinds of dogwood and those bloom and fruit better there. Still, I'm glad we have a few dogwoods in Brandon.

I remember no crape myrtles from my long ago school days in the area, but we saw some in bloom there now and she had one in her garden that looked bad for a while, so she cut it clear to the ground. It did nothing for an entire year, then came up again and is now thriving.

I came home with many cuttings and some starts, such as the lemon balm that pops up all over the garden there but often dies out in the summer here. I shortened the stems of her pineapple sage for cuttings since my last one had died. They are perennials here, though sometimes short lived. I took cuttings of the million bells. Hers has bloomed since spring but will soon be done in by winter. If I can get mine rooted, they will bloom until spring and be done in by summer.

Mary Ann Blair Fry grew up on a dairy farm in South Jersey and studied agriculture in our days at the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture. We were in the first class to get our degrees from Temple University when it took over our school. She went on to get her BA and taught high school horticulture for 28 years. She has also worked in flower shops, as a horticultural therapist, garden consultant, lecturer, and anything else she needed to put her hand to over the years. She married an Ambler boy and has lived there all of her adult life and been very active in the Alumni Association.

Last year she was inducted into Temple's Gallery of Success and also received the Founders Award.

Every time we have had a class reunion, she has opened her home to all and given us a wonderful dinner the night before.

She has done us proud and served us well. I salute her many accomplishments and cherish her everlasting friendship. It is a most pleasant wonder that classmates so far removed and seldom connected can grow closer and closer over the years.

Right: This dead tree serves as plant hanger in Fry's garden shown here in June with the catmint blooming below.

Below: A rock and herb garden includes begonias in bloom, also oregano and ageratum. We can't grow that kind of columbine (see leaf at left) or the silver snow-on-the mountain, but we can keep our pineapple sage outdoors all winter.