The Clifton resident has been working for several years to transform her yard from a sun-blotting rabble of invasive honeysuckle bushes into a bright showplace for perennial flowers, shrubs and trees.

But her green thumb extends far beyond her borders as a board member of the Civic Garden Center, a non-profit garden education and resource center in Walnut Hills, and as a volunteer developer of community gardens.

It's the culmination of a lifelong love for growing things that began in kindergarten. As a baby boomer closing in on retirement, it's a passion that she looks forward to indulging for many years to come and an ice-breaker for new friends, too.

"Children will come smell your roses," she says. "It's a great way to keep in contact with your neighbors or children on the street."

Bishop manages a team of food scientists at Cargill in Woodlawn, developing food flavorings. She has been in the industry for 33 years after earning a master's in food science at North Carolina State. Her career has taken her around the country from her home state of North Carolina, presenting various challenges to exercise her love of gardening.
 

"When I lived in Sherwood, Wisc., I had a nice size lot, and that's when I got to do what I wanted with the yard," Bishop explains. "It was an English cottage-style house, so I made an English garden. It was a slow process that took 13 years."

She ended with a yard full of climbing roses and sun perennials.

When she moved to a co-op apartment building in New York, the best that she could manage was tomatoes in buckets on her balcony.

Here in the Clifton Gaslight neighborhood, where old homes cozy up to one another under a canopy of mature trees, the only part of her yard that gets full sun is in front. So, it was back to flowers and perennials.

"The front yard looks great. It's really nice," she says with satisfaction.

Her diligence caught the eye of a
neighbor who was on the board of the Civic Garden Center, whose volunteers work at beautifying the community through numerous projects, classes and plant sales.

CROSS COUNTRY GARDENING

Three years ago, Bishop accepted a nomination to join the board.

She took a six-month training class to learn how to set up community gardens, training that included everything from how to select the right plot to dealing with the varying personalities that such a project would attract.

In January, she put her new training to work alongside a Civic Garden Center master gardener to create a community garden at John P. Parker Elementary School in Madisonville.

"We formed a group and completed that, one of the first school gardens within the Cincinnati Public Schools system," Bishop says. "We brought in all kinds of people, we built raised beds and a deer fence."

"The garden is slowly evolving," she says. She points out that teachers were initially at a loss on how to utilize the new garden. So, Bishop and others worked successfully to secure a grant, which funds a gardener to be a liaison to help guide programming around the garden.

In the end, "It was a lot of fun," she says.

She went on to volunteer at the Race Street Children's Garden in Over-the-Rhine, where children far from suburban lawns or rural fields learn about gardening and get their hands in the soil.

FUNDRAISING, PLANT BY PLANT

In May, Bishop ran the sun perennials booth at the Civic Garden Center's annual fundraising plant sale, an event in its 51st year. It's another challenge and opportunity for her to get creative.

"You work with wholesalers and decide which plants to sell, and you work with a volunteer coordinator," she explains.

"You place the plants and position them. On a Wednesday, you set it up. On Thursday, the plants come. Friday is the preview party and Saturday and Sunday is the actual sale."

Bishop says that gardening is great exercise for her, noting that she wards off aches and pains from the labor by doing it consistently. It's only when she takes long breaks does she get achy.

It's a hobby that she encourages other Baby Boomers to test drive. "I think that a lot of people are interested in gardening. At the Civic Garden Center, we have different classes, and I've noticed that some of the people in the master gardening program are those thinking about retirement," she says.

Most classes are free or require a nominal fee. They attract a cross-section of people and are invariably fun and interesting. Bishop recently completed a master composting class in which she learned to efficiently turn household food and yard waste like fruit rinds, coffee grinds and grass clippings into rich fertilizer for her flower beds.

She is looking forward to the Civic Garden Center's tour of community gardens in the fall.

It culminates in a harvest festival at the center where community gardeners bring dishes made with the fruit (and vegetables) of their labor to share with other gardeners, and to share war stories from the fields, as well.