Bob and Kathy

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Meet Bob and Kathy Jaskowiak. Like so many in this region, they volunteer uncountable hours at a public garden - in this case, Glen Foerd, in the Far Northeast, the subject of a story I'll be doing on Feb. 17.

Bob's a retired city employee - he did HR for 33 years - and Kathy is a semi-retired nurse. In 2005, they moved from their home in Wissinoming to a condo near Glen Foerd, which they learned about when one of their daughters decided to hold her wedding reception there in 2001. (Weddings, in fact, constitute the bulk of the estate's visitors.)

You wouldn't call Bob and Kathy horticulturists. But you would call them indispensable to the upkeep of this 18-acre, 19th-century estate on the Delaware, particularly the rose garden. They keep it clean, pruned and mulched. They plant replacement roses for those that die or are the proverbial wrong plant in the wrong place.

With other volunteers, they're also trying to stay on top of the invasives problem. There are weed trees on the banks of the river and elsewhere on the grounds. There's an entire grouping of lilacs that you can't even see anymore!

But the sense you get when you walk around here is that things are pretty much under control. Not without a lot of sweat and hard work, of course. (And money. A new roof on the art gallery of the house cost $800,000!)

This is the story I hear at just about every public house/garden I visit. Some draw volunteers better than others. One of Glen Foerd's issues, which a new executive director is trying to address, is that it's not wellknown. You can drive by and never know it's there. That's part of the charm - but it's a definite challenge, and in this age of dwindling grant money and government support, it's critical to find ways to attract both donors and visitors.

I've taken walks at Glen Foerd many times, but until this week I'd never been in the house. It's worth a visit. But the current hours aren't convenient, at least for folks like me who work fulltime, which is another issue.

If you have an older house, or you're a gardener, you understand about all this maintenance, money and hard work. Hey, I wouldn't mind a government grant for that myself!

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