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Coffee and Cutting Saturday will benefit Shelter Guardians

SPENCER — If you need an excuse to visit someone else’s garden and support a cause, here’s an idea.

Jean McCoy, who lives on Steeplechase Trail outside Spencer, is again opening her expansive garden for Coffee and Cutting from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.

The cutting will benefit Shelter Guardians, a cause near and dear to McCoy’s heart, and will be dedicated to the late Bill Stanback.

“He did so much for our community. He was a great man,” McCoy says. “Nancy (Stanback) is coming to help, and I’m so excited about it.”

Bring a pair of scissors and a clean bucket. “Make sure it’s clean, not full of dirty stuff,” she says. You can cut to your heart’s delight, except for the purple pineapple lily.

You will be amazed by the zinnias, salvia, amaranth that’s 6 feet tall and all sorts of bright hues, from white to deep purple. Reds, oranges and yellow abound, from black-eyed Susans to intriguing celosias, or cock’s comb.

You’ve never seen some of these varieties or shapes. One called pink candle is the softest shade. Some of the celosias came from her mother, who bought the seeds at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home.

McCoy has done this for years, supporting various causes but especially those that help animals. She has two rescue dogs herself, thanks to Nina Dix and Shelter Guardians.

Almost yearly, she opens her yard and house on a Saturday in July for a morning of cutting and quality snacks, many of which she provides and some of which friends bring. You might have a bite of quiche, a fancy sandwich, a vegetable plate, or, if you’re lucky, she’ll make her wonderful cheese dip in a bread bowl.

A tour of the garden just days before the cutting is like entering an oasis. The heat and humidity seem to fade once you enter a world dominated by blooming plants, and she has shady areas, a butterfly walk and special pathways throughout.

New this year is a brick pathway made of 100-year-old reclaimed bricks from her friend Nancy Brandt. Jean and her husband, Rick Travis, planned a pattern for the bricks and laid the path themselves, though they were exhausted by the process. The bricks have such variations in color and even shape that it’s like a mosaic.

The garden is gated, mostly to keep critters out — deer have eaten all her potted hostas beyond the fence. The iron gates have tin planters attached that will hold arrangements on the big day. “I want to give people some ideas of what the flowers can look like.”

In years past, cutters arrived early, just before 8 a.m., and left with not just buckets but tubs of flowers. Still, the garden has more to offer. “And it always needs cutting back. It’s like a good pruning.”

One area near the front of the house features a red grass in a pottery container. Surrounding it is an island of volunteer flowers. “I didn’t plant this place this year — these all came back.” She thinks she can thank the birds for a lot of it.

Oh, the birds. Before too many people crowd into the garden, look for hummingbirds enjoying the Texas salvia, butterflies in blues and golds, large, furry bumblebees, colorful moths and goldfinch everywhere you look.

“If you’re afraid of bees, this might not be the place to come,” she says. “But they’re pretty happy with what they’ve got.”

She makes sure to plant things that attract pollinators to her garden, though she doesn’t have time to keep bees. “With all this,” she says, spreading her arms wide, “that’s enough.”

She uses no pesticides nor does she till. “We let the microorganisms and the earthworms do the work, and they usually do it better.”

The hot, dry summer has been a problem. Her wild persimmon trees are already dropping fruit, and she has had to water. They added a well to the property just for watering. “I water for hours at a time.”

For the cutting to be a successful fundraiser for Shelter Guardians, Jean is asking for a donation. “Ten dollars is a good amount, I think.” Anonymous benefactors will match the money raised.

“Just come and see the garden,” she says.

The Coffee and Cutting will be from 8 a.m. to noon at 505 Steeplechase Trail. “Remember the bucket and scissors,” Jean says.

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