When Mike and Lynn Utz moved into their historical home that backs up to a little-known lake in Centerville, husband Mike told Lynn it would be for just a few years. Twenty-two years later they have definitely settled in, and they love their property and the house that is over 100 years old.
“When you move into a new home, it grows on you,” said Mike Utz, an organic gardener. “The house sort of adopts you, and you become its caretaker.”
Taking care of the five-acre property is what Utz loves to do. He spends a lot of time buying, dividing and planting hostas around the expansive yard. When they moved in all those years ago, there were only 20 hosta plants in a small plot in front of the home. Now there are approximately 3,000 of them. His plan is to have about 4,000 when he’s finished with multiple flowerbeds in the east lot.
“Working inside at a manufacturing concern for all those years, it’s so nice now spending time outside enjoying what God gave us on the earth, said Utz, a retired GM toolmaker.
Now his main tools are a wheelbarrow and a shovel. He uses these gardening tools to propagate several types of hosta plants, primarily Plantation Lilies, Blue Mammoth, and Sum & Substance varieties. Plantation lilies develop pure white blooms in August.
“When I started doing this, I went to a Green Velvet nursery in Dublin, Ohio, but they were so expensive. I started learning how to do it myself,” said Utz. “I tried to seed at first, but that didn’t work. So I just started separating them as they got bigger.”
The hardy green plants have multiplied and gotten so plentiful that they practically border the entire property. In the backyard, they are a dozen deep along their westside fence.
“I have dozens of beds, but some of them meander for quite a while. Eventually, I want to have Plantation Lilies around the whole perimeter,” said Utz. “I’ve been planting little miniatures now. I know enough to get into trouble.”
He recently spent $1,200 at a local nursery for hostas, as they cost $25 apiece. And he’s had some friends give him some plants over the years. This year, he’ll start separating again. Eventually his plan is to have smaller ones in the front of the beds, and larger ones in the back.
The original 1805 homestead was a tiny one-story. By 1825 it had two stories and some added rooms. It now is a black and white stone house with a bright red accent door, and an adorable outside patio. The original tool closet has become the Utz’s mudroom.
“In August I’ll spend four solid days as a big mud-ball mess. I can make 10 plants from one large hosta,” said Utz. “My wife will bring water out on the porch, and makes sure I pass inspection before I set foot in the house. I have to pass my clothes to her in the laundry room.”
Besides being on mud patrol, Lynn leaves the hostas up to her husband. She stays busy with a part-time frame shop, a part-time job in a dental office and volunteering at her grandkids’ Centerville schools, Weller and Magsig.
“Mike is an avid gardener and his backyard is amazing. His entire property is so well maintained,” said Sue Meyer, a friend of the family.
Contact this contributing writer at PamDillon@woh.rr.com.