Spring is such a beautiful time of year. Flowers are in bloom, trees are budding, the sound of birds singing fills the morning air, and one’s morning brew is most enjoyable when sipping from the deck or patio that overlooks the landscape.
Imagine having the good fortune of being able to enjoy this kind of beauty year-round. Jill Hudock and her husband, John, can do just that, thanks to Hudock’s green thumb, her love of flower gardening, and a little patch of land that gives her the freedom to let her creativity run wild.
The gardens that surround Hudock’s property are filled with a wide variety of flowers including annuals and perennials, flowering trees, shrubs and a host of other plants that provide incredible scents and hues year-round. Some of the more common species of annuals and perennials that have a home in the gardens include spring favorites such as tulips (Jill planted 800 tulip bulbs last fall) and daffodils, plus a host of others flowering favorites such as primrose, delphinium, zinnias, foxgloves, snowdrops, forget me nots, violets and blue larkspur, just to name a few. They also have six different species of magnolias that exude a sweet smell throughout the summer, along with a great mix of other flowering trees, shrubs and succulents.
Hudock is a Shippensburg native whose love of and interest in flowers was evident from a very young age
“My first word was flower, and I have a very vivid memory of orange daylilies and Queen Anne’s Lace before age 5 at our home in the country,” she said.
She also remembers picking dandelion bouquets for her Mom, and how her grandfather grew the most beautiful blue larkspur amongst his vegetables. Her parents didn’t garden, but she says she drew pictures of flowers all the time when she was young.
If you’ve ever driven through the Diller Development near Middle Spring, chances are you’ve noticed some gorgeous hues of spring and beautiful blooms from your view inside the car. The Hudock home sits on an acre of land that is surrounded by a stunning array of color, no matter what time of year it is. To say that Hudock merely has a green thumb would be an insult. To say that she has an eye for design would be a gross understatement.
Hudock is a Master Gardener and Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturist. She is a Shippensburg high school graduate, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from Shippensburg University, which has also helped in her garden designs over the years.
Hudock is blessed with talent, and has used it well over the years to add color and beauty to her life, as well as the lives of others. She shared a story of how gardening taught her some early lessons. “When I was in college, I began to plant flowers at the rental apartments where I lived. After cleaning out one elderly lady’s flower bed, and a trip to the doctor, I learned what poison ivy looked like. A very important lesson to learn indeed,” she noted.
She refined her artistic abilities while working as an artist for the Beistle Co. Her designs were very unique and appeared on popular TV shows such as Oprah, Roseanne, and ER. “While it was a thrill to see my designs on TV, this had nothing to do with plants, but it did help reinforce design principles and the use of color,” she said.
Her first real stab at a gardening project was on land that she and John purchased to build their home on more than 30 years ago. Hudock said it was a farmer’s field, graded with most of the topsoil removed. She admits there were many lessons learned in this process that led her to understand the importance of good soil. “You can have the loveliest plants with a great plan in place, but if your soil isn’t acceptable to those plants, your dreams will certainly fail,” she said. “We made a lot of common mistakes that most new gardeners do, like planting azaleas and rhododendrons along with other sorts of rich soil-loving plants. Most of them died due to poor soil or site conditions. I also planted tons of bright annuals that first year because that’s what I could find easily around here. Now, looking back, photos of those gardens make me cringe!”
Spring ahead some two or three decades later, and Hudock has a tremendous amount of accomplishments under her gardening belt, not-to-mention all the time she wants to devote to her own flower gardens. She does take time to stop and smell the roses, along with hundreds of other flowers, shrubs and flowering trees along the way!
Hudock educated herself on all aspects of gardening by reading horticulture magazines, acquiring many books, watching TV shows, and attending horticultural symposiums sponsored by Horticulture Magazine, where lectures were presented at world class garden sites and featured famous speakers. She said this was a wonderful way to learn and be enlightened. She traveled to Delaware, Raleigh, North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia, for these symposiums. Another invaluable source of inspiration and education has been the many garden trips that she and John have taken over the years, including touring some of the best gardens in England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, China and the Netherlands. She said they are hoping to visit gardens in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji this fall.
The education she received through all of this began to prove fruitful when one of her neighbors said she would pay Hudock to design a space for her. This was the beginning of her word-of-mouth, part-time design business that she continued for 20 years!
You may know, or remember Hudock from the beautiful touch she added to the Peace Garden in Shippensburg. This garden space in Memorial Park was established seven years prior to Hudock answering a newspaper ad for volunteers. She figured she could use the time spent working on the Peace Garden toward the 50 hours of community service that all new Master Gardeners have to complete during their first year. An additional 20 hours of community service was required for every year thereafter. She fulfilled the requirements for the next 16 years, and continued working at the Peace Garden, retiring after 18 years. She said she felt it was time to let someone else have a turn.
While the Peace Garden continued to develop, Cumberland Valley Tree Service offered to send Hudock to classes to obtain her Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturist certificate while she continued to work as a designer for them.
“The PCH certificate requires much more knowledge than master gardening,” Hudock explained. “It was an intensive, broad-based technical course that helps one succeed in the landscaping field.”
All of the knowledge that she’s gained over the years has paid dividends in lush gardens filled with beautiful flowers and colorful foliage year round. Hudock said she really doesn’t have a favorite season because she loves them all. Each offers an array of color and splendor to enjoy. “Even in the winter months, the garden is beautiful with its layout and evergreens,” she noted. “This winter (what little one we had) blanketed our sunken garden, creating a magical effect. We could never live in a mild climate because all four seasons are always interesting around here.”
She explained that some plants require more care than others, and many people “would probably view this as ‘work.’”
“But, the way I see it, it’s never work when you’re indulging in your passion!”
Now that she doesn’t have to track her hours for the Master Gardener program, she said she has time to do a variety of tasks related to gardening including reading, making notes, digging and daydreaming and planning the next move.
“I really have no idea how much time I devote to gardening because the fun just never ends!”
The Hudocks even have a conservatory on the property that houses the previous year’s annuals over the winter.
Hudock said she loves walking through each of the gardens on the property. “Each one has its own feeling,” she explained. “I choose plants and hardscaping (planters, statuary and paving) to fit the theme I’ve chosen. It helps to organize the space and creates garden ‘rooms.’ The best part comes when I look around and realize at that moment there’s nothing else I could do better…Mother Nature has come through!”
You can follow Hudock on Facebook where she posts a daily photo or scene from her gardens. She said in this way, people can share these images or be inspired to track down a plant to add to their own little slice of heaven.
“I love to garden, and I love to see others benefit from it. It feeds our souls in a way nothing else can!”