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Hidden jewel of Elizabethtown 

 The Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Pritchard Community Center offers thousands of flowers and a place to sit and enjoy nature

“The Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Pritchard Community Center have been greatly enhanced during the last two years. They are now a local attraction, and a pleasant, colorful source of pride in the community,” says Elizabethtown resident Janet Gebler.

The husband and wife team of Ed Webb and Joni House Webb transformed the gardens over the past two years. Hired by Elizabethtown’s Department of Parks and Recreation, each working 100 hours a month, Ed has a degree in horticulture, and Joni is a Master Gardener. “It’s the perfect job for us. We make our own hours,” says Joni.

Joni was born and raised in Rineyville, Kentucky, just 7 miles northwest of Elizabethtown. “Ed was an Army brat, so he’s lived all over. He bought the house in front of my father’s dairy farm and we met at the mailbox and have been together ever since, 38 years,” says Joni.

Starting in April 2016, Joni says, “We spent the first six months weeding and mulching. Then we started adding flowers. We’ve put in about 15 perennial flower beds. We have two huge butterfly gardens, one in front and one in back. People have said they’ve never seen so many butterflies ever. Over the past two years, we’ve added thousands of flowers and bulbs, which bloom from February until frost.”

In March, she says you can expect to see see daffodils, hyacinth, hellebores, and possibly by the end of the month, depending upon the weather, some tulips and snowdrops.

Cockscomb, or celosia, at the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Prichard Community Center, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Several visitors have commented that their grandmothers grew cockscomb. Photo: Ed Webb
New sign with front butterfly garden in foreground. One of five cleome (spider plant) colors grown in the summer 2017 at the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Prichard Community Center, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Photo: Ed Webb
Ed Webb and wife Joni House Webb tend the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Prichard Community Center, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. After getting his degree as a horiculturist, Ed spent four years as an apprentice to a Japanese gardener in Spokane, Washington. Joni is a Master Gardener. Photo: Ed Webb
Bee on a coneflower at the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Prichard Community Center, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Photo: Ed Webb
Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, named 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year, shown at the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at the Prichard Community Center, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Photo: Ed Webb
Monarch butterfly on a zinnia at the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Prichard Community Center, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Photo: Ed Webb
One of four varieties of crocosmia, perennial bulbs, planted at the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Prichard Community Center, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Photo: Ed Webb
One of the Red-shouldered hawks from the nesting pair at the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Prichard Community Center, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Photo: Ed Webb
A section of the rear butterfly garden at the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Prichard Community Center, Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Photo: Ed Webb

Flowers, trees, and nature

Joni explains that they use the cottage garden style of planting. “We try to put as many different colors and flowers as possible in every bed. This attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.”

Last summer the arboretum and gardens were on the Garden Club Garden Tour. Joni says photographers flock to the gardens to take engagement, baby, and senior portraits, and the Pritchard Community Center also books weddings that take place indoors but also outside in the garden.

“We get a lot of questions from visitors. People come through and want to know what each flower is. The trees have tags on them. We will probably be doing tags for the perennials this summer,” says Joni.

Joni says they, “put a lot of color near the road, Mayberry Street. That draws your eye in.”

She says, “A lot of people are now hearing about it. One day we were talking to our boss and we watched a woman pull in. She came over and asked us, ‘Are you responsible for this?’ We replied, yes, and she said, ‘Thank you,’ and drove off. One man who walks his dog frequently here says ‘This is the blooming-ist place in Etown.’”

Joni says it is also a wonderful place to watch nature. “There is a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks that live near there. Over the past two years we’ve watched their babies grow and leave their nest.”

What are their favorite perennials?

Joni says, “I love irises because of all the different colors, and daylilies because you can’t kill them.” Ed’s favorite is “crocosmia, a South African perennial from the iris family. Most are in the orange-red family, although some have yellow, golden colors.”

Joni says, from the front path of the arboretum to the end, “it’s 1/2-mile, so you can get a nice walk in. It runs along Valley Creek, a pretty creek, on one side. It’s the natural border.  There are gravel paths and lots of places to sit. There are picnic tables in the sun and the shade, and on the patio there are tables and benches, where you can have lunch. It’s open 24/7, 365 days a year.”

The Pritchard Community Center is located at 404 South Mayberry Street, just three blocks from downtown Elizabethtown. For more information, you can call (270) 765-5551.

“It is the hidden jewel of Elizabethtown,” says Ed.

 

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