Gardens galore: Farming background apparent in Adrian yard

Tom and Ann Adrian talk about one of their Japanese maple trees in their back yard. Their home will be on the annual garden tour, which is this weekend. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

Tom Adrian recalls a special meal his mom made in the spring as he grew up on the farm—fried spring chicken, new potatoes and peas in a cream sauce, and zwieback. The zwieback comes from the family’s German descent.

On the farm, they raised their own chickens, as well as the peas and potatoes.

Tom, a Newton attorney, grew up on a farm eight miles west of Hesston in Harvey County, and he remembers the food his mom used to make and the crops and livestock they raised.

“I am a farmer,” Tom said, joking. “This law thing is just kind of a facade.”

Tom said his dad, grandfather and great-grandfather were all farmers and that his great-grandpa was the homesteader. While growing up, Tom said they grew wheat, soybeans, sorghum and some alfalfa, as well as raising hogs and cattle.

That farming and gardening influence still comes out in Tom’s life, as he and his wife Ann have a nicely landscaped yard in Newton, and their Newton home will be on the 23rd Newton Flower & Garden Tour, slated for Saturday, June 9, and Sunday, June 10, at four local gardens.

“We didn’t worry about flowers, but we had big vegetable gardens and fruit trees,” Tom said about gardening at the farm. In addition to the veggies and fruit they grew, they also picked sand plums and mulberries growing wild.

“Back then, my favorite thing was eating what we raised,” Tom said, adding his mom was an excellent cook and could make all the veggies seem “really delicious.”

She also made pickles and jellies, keeping them in the basement.

“We used everything we raised,” Tom said. “I remember her saying, ‘I’ll just whip up a pie.’ Her pies were always great.”

His mom also had a large crock in the kitchen she’d make pickles in with brine, placing a plate on top. As a matter of fact, Tom never had store-bought bread until he went to college, Ann said.

His mom also made other tasty food, such as cherry moos and verenike. They had cherry trees.

“She would always can stuff,” Tom said. “She loved to cook.”

So much, in fact, that she was the dietician at Axtell Hospital in Newton for 20 years.

Tom is the gardener half of Adrian couple, since although Ann’s family has a farming background, she wasn’t raised on a farm.

Tom said their yard is for beautification, not gardening.

“I’ve got flowers and decorative bushes and so on,” he said.

There’s also a pool and a magnolia tree, as well as hibiscus, day lilies, knockout roses, petunias, Japanese maple trees and the greenest of grasses.

Ann said they’d like to grow some herbs, and their one special plant is one of their trees.

“The most beautiful, unusual thing we have and have had a number of years is a magnolia tree,” she said, adding it blooms every May/June, but the freeze in April left it a little haggard and it hasn’t bloomed yet. Tom pointed out a rather large bud that will grow into a flower.

They planted that tree in 2005, and they still want to keep it.

“We will have blossoms,” Tom said. “There are still buds on there.”

Another feature of their yard is the drainage system that has pipes going under the patio. They consulted with an engineer on that project.

“We have a Rose of Sharon, which is a perennial plant,” Tom said, adding they put in the Japanese maples as color accents.

Ann said the back yard has three enormous cottonwood trees, which were planted in 1964, although they’re not cottonless and do spread that Kansas summer snow.

Although Tom said he’s the gardener, he gets help from Don Esch with Esch Landscaping and Clint Green with Green Growers of Newton on the lawn mowing.

George Robb, father of Joe and John Robb, two other local attorneys, built the house that year and planted the trees.

“They’re great for shade,” Ann said.

Homes and the tour

The Second Century Library Foundation will host the 23rd Newton Flower & Garden Tour to benefit Newton Public Library. The tour will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 9, and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 10. Four Newton/North Newton private gardens will be opened for visitors to enjoy. A suggested donation to benefit the Newton Public Library is $8. Tickets are available at Newton Public Library, 720 N. Oak, through June 9, or at the tour gardens during the tour. Tour information updates will also be available at

For each garden, the homeowners and Harvey County Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions about plants and garden design. Locations include:

Kelli and Brent Glann, 2413 College Ave., North Newton. The yard at 2413 College Ave. is a burst of summer color, full of at least 1,500 annuals.

Gwen Claassen, 2913 Bluestem Court, North Newton. Claassen’s garden in North Newton reflects whimsy and prairie hardiness.

Curtis and Chris Allen, 314 Glendale, Newton. Curtis and Chris Allen were awarded the City of Newton 2017 Residential Yard of the Year.

Tom and Ann Adrian, 1704 Cypress Lane, Newton. Tom and Ann Adrian’s large yard features pin oak shade trees in the front and several mature cottonwood trees in the back, all providing welcomed summer time relief from the sun.