Nursery offers unique experience

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 14, 2005

Located in Western Butler County is a place that’s a delight for the senses. Flowers cascade out of clay strawberry pots and hanging baskets while pots of scarlet geraniums catch the eye under the shady porch of a potting shed.

A watchful mother bluebird flits over the house where her youngsters are safely tucked away. As you walk through the grass, listening to some very exotic-looking chickens clucking in their nearby pen, the fragrance of herbs borne on a gentle breeze tantalizes the nose.

&uot;Rub this one to release the scent – it’s like a York Peppermint Pattie,&uot; Whitman Kramer says with a smile as she lifts up a chocolate mint plant, one of a number of herbs – oregano, basil, chives, dill, pineapple mint, lemon verbena, rosemary, lavender – filling a table.

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Nearby are pots of swizzle zinnias, roses, petunias and dianthus, and a few yards away is little Rosemary and Isabel Kramer’s garden plot, complete with sugar snap peas, lettuce, carrots and some pretty flowers for good measure.

Bees buzz among the blooms. Water trickles over rocks in a little wildlife pond, tempting birds to come and take a bath on this warm May afternoon.

Across the wide green fields and beyond the trees, the county highway and fast-paced modern living seem very far away.

It would be awfully tempting to slip off to the rustic swing nearby to sip a glass of peach tea sprigged with fresh peppermint and simply watch Mother Nature in action.

But duty calls. And plants get thirsty, too.

&uot;You know, this all started off with two little herb beds back here,&uot; says Kramer as she waters another assortment of plants near her little greenhouse.

Kramer’s love of herbs and flowers has literally blossomed into the area’s newest nursery – one its owner hopes will draw people of all ages who want to enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors.

She freely admits she wasn’t always a fan of nurseries. &uot;As a child, it was always a feeling of ‘don’t touch’ or ‘don’t pick’ when I went to nurseries with my mom and I hated that,&uot; she recalls.

It’s a big reason why she encourages those visiting her new enterprise, open since April 16, to do plenty of touching and sniffing (&uot;See this plant? It’s called ‘lamb’s ear’ and all you have to do is stroke one of the leaves to see where it got its name&uot;).

At Whitman Kramer’s nursery, it’s O.K. to go ahead and gently ruffle the oregano; tousle the leaves of the lemon thyme. And please, do take the time to stop and smell the roses.

&uot;Don’t you love the scent of this one? Someone told me it was like the smell of grandma’s talcum powder, I love that,&uot; says Kramer as she shows off one of several roses.

&uot;Now,this rose is called ‘knock out’ – I didn’t make that up. It’s called that because apparently you can knock yourself out trying to kill it – and it still won’t die,&uot; the nursery owner laughs as she points out the brilliant fuchsia blossoms, adding, &uot;People love the color – I mean, doesn’t it just grab you from a distance? And I love these petunias with the white edges.&uot;

As Kramer waters her plants, she admits with a wry grin a selfish reason for starting the business. &uot;I think I do this in part to supply my plant habit – I buy and I sell.&uot;

Her aim, she says, is to carry flowers and other plants you probably won’t find at other area nurseries – both older plants and newer ones.

&uot;I do carry a lot of herbs, because I love to cook and herbs are great for cooking; they are also easy to grow – and they smell great,&uot; she explains.

She carries unusual plants such as Spanish butterfly lavender with its distinctive "bunny ear blooms" along with abelia (&uot;it’s great for attracting hummingbirds and other birds&uot;), butterfly ginger, limelight hydrangea and Japanese maple.

Kramer has also started a collection of water plants for the nursery after discovering how hard it was to find them for her own garden.

&uot;I guess you can say we have everything from edibles to ornamentals and annuals to perennials – and if I don’t have it, I have some good sources out there who can help me out,&uot; Kramer explains.

And Kramer also wants to see her nursery become a destination for families to enjoy together. &uot;We are set well back from the road, so it’s safe for the kids to run around out here and have fun,&uot; says Kramer.

&uot;We’ve also got a bike path. And there are tons of birds around here – I think all the plants really attract them, and they love to swoop down to take baths in my little wildlife pond. I love watching them act silly,&uot; she adds with a laugh.

And Forest Home and Garden also offers two friendly family canines, big ol’ Sass and little Buttermilk, plus horses and those ever-intriguing exotic chickens.

So far, the fledgling nursery owner says business has gone well. She is hopeful the trend will continue as people make the trip out to scenic Forest Home to its newest business.

But it isn’t all about the dollars for Whitman Kramer.

&uot;You know, I just want people to come out here and enjoy what we have – and I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to buy anything. I just want folks to enjoy the drive out here and have a great time and feel at home while they are here,&uot; Kramer says earnestly.

She pauses from her gardening tasks and listens to the sounds of nature.

&uot;There – do you hear the baby birds singing? That sound just makes me smile.&uot;