Familiar city flower garden loses its gardener

Jan. 10—Mid-January typically offers amateur gardeners a hard-earned, if temporary, break from bending, planting, watering and the hundred other tasks that come with tackling an ambitious garden during the growing months.

For one garden known to many Meadville residents and visitors, the break this winter looks to be more lasting: A small plot familiar to many neighbors and passersby near the intersection of Park Avenue and Baldwin Street recently lost its nonagenarian gardener and its future is uncertain.

Eva Jones, 97, a fixture in Meadville for nearly a century and at her Park Avenue apartment for more than a decade, died Dec. 25. Jones remained active well into her 90s and, with help from others, maintained a flower garden outside her apartment that was packed with numerous types of flowers. In fact, the eye-catching blooms earned Jones' garden recognition as the city's Garden of the Month by the Meadville Garden Club in June 2020 — when Jones was 95.

"I love sitting here reading and looking at my flowers," she told The Meadville Tribune at the time. "All my life I've loved trees and flowers — there's just something about them."

Jones' urban oasis changed a bit from year to year, but typically included marigolds, impatiens, hibiscuses, petunias, geraniums, carnations, azaleas, hydrangeas, tiger lilies and daylilies, roses, gladioluses, tomatoes and more.

Meadville Mayor Jaime Kinder said she had only met Jones a few times, but was familiar with her garden.

"She was a delight. She helped better our community each day," Kinder said Monday. "Her garden created joy and had a positive impact on each person who passed. I am truly thankful for her time here."

Keith Cross, who since early 2020 has owned the apartment house where Jones resided, recalled the recent addition of two rose bushes to the garden. It happened when Cross mowed the property's lawn, inadvertently mowing with it a diminutive rose bush that was part of Jones' garden. Jones let him know what he had done, and he ended up buying two larger rose bushes to replace the one he had destroyed.

"She was tickled pink," Jones said Monday. "She was definitely adamant on that flower garden, that's for sure."

Cross said he didn't expect any future tenants to have the same level of investment in the garden that Jones had displayed.

"She was definitely an exception," he said. "Most tenants wouldn't like to do that, but her love and passion for gardening made her do it anyway."

Perennials already established in the garden will likely return with little effort required in terms of upkeep, Cross said, and there are no plans to remove what Jones had planted.

A garden like Jones' is a lot of work, no matter the gardener's age.

"I'll probably keep someone working on it a little bit," he said, "to keep it looking decent, but I'm not going to go out there and do what she did, that's for sure.

"I just don't have the time," Cross said, marveling a bit at the memory of Jones' efforts.

A memorial service for Jones will be held Jan. 22 at 2 p.m. at Stone United Methodist Church, 956 S. Main St.

Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.