Pennsylvania's First Gardener

Susan Corbett, wife of Gov. Tom Corbett, considers herself Pennsylvania's First Gardener and guess what. It's not hype. It's true. I visited with Mrs. C. for a couple of hours recently and she's the real deal.

We walked the grounds of the Governor's Residence in Harrisburg- not the entire three acres, but the landscaped areas, which include the West Lawn, where special events and receptions are held; the Susquehanna Garden, the family's private space; Penn's Woods, a woodland filled with native plants like lady's slipper, Jack in the pulpit and clethra; and the formal Rose Garden, everybody's favorite, with about 250 roses.


Mrs. C is very personable, and clearly interested in promoting not just the arts, which is her thing, but the residence - it's 32 rooms, but known as the more egalitarian-sounding "residence" - and the gardens, which since the Corbetts moved in last year, include two beehives, a vegetable garden and a cutting garden.

I especially liked the vegetable garden, which is tended by Master Gardener volunteers, and has a lot of hot peppers and greens, also broccoli, lovage, heirloom tomatoes, strawberries, herbs (chives, sage, basil) and this summer, asparagus. It was pretty weedy when I was there, but the  MGs were due for a visit!

The bees are especially interesting, and by all accounts, are responsible for more berries on the holly bushes and viburnums, more fruit on the vine, and more blooms in the garden. That's the word from Gloria Day of Reading, who designed the vegetable garden, and Dennis Rydberg, who's cared for the gubernatorial gardens since 1992.

Here, Mrs. C is in the Rose Garden, by a 'Peace' rose. Story with video coming soon.