Karen Flittner – Silver Master Gardener

Karen began her SWIMGA program in January 2005.  She has lived in her home in Newburgh for 27 years.   Her gardening began when a neighbor gave her some iris about 20 years ago.  Then, a family member gave her more iris and from that point, her desire for gardening escalated.  She retired from Juvenile Court as a Court Reporter after the death of her husband.  She has taken on the Coordinator position for the Newburgh Pool garden.  She also helps in the Display Garden’s Cottage Garden; the Newburgh Dam Garden and the Habitat Garden program.  Recently she helped plant wildflowers in the INPAWS program on Highway 41 and even went back and helped weed the newly-planted areas.

Before I even knew her, I have watched her gardens with interest in the 22 years that I have driven by her house every day going to work at Newburgh Locks.  She has a beautiful view of the river as she lives right on Hwy 662 in Newburgh.  This past spring I noticed she had a new garden on the hill.  It was beautiful with all the tulips and daffodils she had planted last fall.  The Louisiana Iris had just completed blooming at the time of my visit.

In the last year Karen has added an extension in the front of her home.  In doing so, her son encouraged her to put another fountain in the front yard.  It is beautiful and lends a pleasant sound as you approach her door.

 It was a surprise to find out that she has some family history with the Locks and Dam.  Her uncle’s father, James Rankin, was a Lock and Dam Operator and then became the Lockmaster many years ago.  She recalled she used to roll down the hill as a kid, when her family visited him as he lived in the Lockmaster house across from the Old Newburgh Dam. 

While working with her neighbor, Julia Rang, on the Garden Walk booklet in April 2013, I admired the beautiful iris bed she had planted on the edge of her yard.  It was then I discovered Karen was a SWIMGA Master Gardener.   That’s one thing about SWIMGA – you meet so many people when you become involved in projects!  So many different varieties of iris made a beautiful view driving by her home.  After the iris stops blooming,  peonies begin their show.  The corkscrew willow provides interest in their crooked branches.  Karen makes sure the tree stays within the bounds of the bed and uses the branches she removes for plant stakes.

On the east side of her home is a sun room where she grows many varieties of orchids.  Ron Giles, another SWIMGA MG, spiked her interest in orchids.  She has a special greenhouse on the sunroom that she keeps them growing happily supplied by the humidity they love.  When they are blooming, she brings them onto her table and in her kitchen.  Master Gardeners have the way of enticing you to try something new all the time!  From the sunroom you can step into her side garden.  She has a small vegetable garden that contains tomatoes she grew from seed this year.  Sweet Autumn Clematis is beautiful on the fence preparing to burst into bloom this fall.  Also, there is a fountain that she dug herself and built the wall around it.  She’s done a great job on her gardens and I loved seeing the beautiful daylilies and hostas that were in full bloom.  A wooden wheelbarrow, that her aunt recently gave her, is waiting to find a final resting place in the garden.  It is wonderful to receive things from your family and to receive help from her sons in various ways for her garden.

The huge rock on the slope in her front yard is a wonderful focal point.  She has added flowers blooming every season around it ~  it’s a pleasant stopping place on your walk down to the riverfront.

She shared that she and Julia have contributed to the rocky bank across the street from their homes to grow beautiful butterfly bushes.  The great thing about it is that the bushes have voluntarily spread.  Karen’s grandkids have made her a secret bench on the bank from rocks they piled up for her to enjoy the barges on the river, hidden from street view by the butterfly bushes. 

I hope you enjoy the pictures as I certainly enjoyed my visit with Karen.  Click on each picture to enlarge.

Interview by Belinda Dillback, July 2013