Healthy Heroes

St. Benedict Cathedral School adopts new health initiative
Maribel Moore, Landen Horning, Karter Stratman, Costas Yerolemou, and Carson Boyer

The third graders at St. Benedict Cathedral School are on their way to becoming HEROES.

The HEROES Initiative, which stands for Healthy, Energy, Ready, Outstanding, Enthusiastic Schools, is a three-year, school-based health grant provided by Welborn Baptist Foundation. This program gives financial and technical support to increase opportunities for healthy eating and active living for the school community.

The third graders at St. Ben’s, along with their teachers Donna Woehler and Madalyn Steckler, and grant coordinators Laurie Schopmeyer and Jon Day, are using two innovative garden towers to plant organic foods and herbs as part of a pilot project with the initiative.

“I think the process from seed to the finished product and all that goes into it is fascinating to the kids,” says Schopmeyer. “Giving them the chance to grow something that they can eventually taste is important — making them aware that healthy, organic food tastes good, is good for their bodies, and can be grown by them.”

Third grader Karter Stratman, 9, says his favorite part of being involved with the garden tower is seeing all of the plants grow.

“I like the peppermint plants the best,” says Stratman. “I learned that it smells good and it gets rid of your headaches when you rub it on your temples.”

The garden towers came from the Garden Tower Project, a small company in Noblesville, Indiana, whose mission is to help transform the face of gardening and food sustainability in the community with this next generation of patio farms.

Since acquiring the two towers through the Welborn Foundation Grant, the students have planted lettuce, kale, herbs, and pansies while Woehler and Steckler work each step of the growing process into lesson plans for every subject.

“Once we got everything settled and put the towers on their dollies, we had all of the kids go out there with notepads and keep track of everything that was happening,” says Woehler.

“We talked about the sequencing in reading class,” says Steckler. “So, for their assignment, they had to describe the sequence of growing the plants by constructing complete sentences using first, next, and last, and write it in paragraph form. They actually really enjoyed that. I think they felt like little scientists.”

The teachers hope to continue the project after the three-year HEROES Initiative.

For more information on the Garden Tower Project, visit For more information about St. Benedict Cathedral, visit For more information on Welborn Baptist Foundation, visit


For the Love of Nature

Julie and J.T. McCarty

As James A. McCarty Jr., or “J.T.” as he’s more commonly called, sits in the backyard of his Newburgh, Indiana, home on a late summer day, flowers, trees, and shrubs surround him. McCarty points out each describing the perfect recipe of sunlight and water care. It’s this kind of knowledge McCarty has acquired through his business, Colonial Classics Landscape & Nursery, and brings to his own home.

“I bring plants home and try them in my own yard, and if they do work, I feel more comfortable about recommending them to my clients,” says McCarty, who has lived in the 1998-built ranch home with a bonus room over the garage for the last six years. His father Jim McCarty Sr. began Colonial Garden Center in 1958, which later evolved into Colonial Classics, and J.T. took over in 1990.

“It allows me to speak confidently about the plants we’re selling,” says the Purdue University alumnus and past president of Garden Centers of Americas, who adopts these “orphaned plants.” Perhaps a basket of flowers came back or previously was damaged or neglected, or it’s a new species being tested out; they find a home at his “oasis in the middle of downtown Newburgh” and McCarty can later provide first-hand insight to his clients.

J.T. and Julie McCarty have lived in their Newburgh, Indiana, home for the last six years. When they purchased the home, J.T., owner of Colonial Classics Landscape & Nursery, says the backyard was a jungle. Upgrades to the yard have included tearing out the brambles, undergrowth, and diseased trees, terracing the landscape to divert water away from the house, adding a Pennsylvania blue slate patio outdoor seating area, and expanding a waterfall.  

Over the years, Colonial Classics, located at 3633 Epworth Road, has evolved from a very popular retail business to services, offering landscape maintenance, design, and building and irrigation installation and service. Colonial Classics also locally owns and operates a franchise of Weed Man Lawn Care Service, known for weed and insect control, and fertilization. Weed Man is North America’s fastest growing independent lawn care company.

Having a landscaped backyard, which McCarty calls “an extension of the house itself,” allows for him to take that familiarity of design, supplies, equipment, and drainage to his clients. The 3,300-square-foot home has French doors that open from the living room to a Pennsylvania blue slate outdoor seating area under a canopy, overlooking the spacious backyard. The slate was laid over exposed aggregate in an ashlar pattern. The patio is bordered with soldier course. Because McCarty treats his space with environmentally friendly insect control and has low-voltage outdoor lighting, he and his wife Julie often leave the French doors open to easily go in and out of the house. The master bedroom steps out to a hot tub.

While J.T. seeks to constantly improve the exterior of the home, it’s Julie, an avid fan of HGTV, who is responsible for the improvements to the interior. Prior to moving into the Newburgh home six years ago, J.T. says he and Julie “gutted the entire first floor of the home — the dining room, living room, master bedroom, and kitchen.” The renovation process involved tearing out walls and “making things much more open.”

The emphasis on the outdoor space and renovations the McCartys made to the inside of the home have “changed the whole traffic pattern of the home.” The backyard has several quiet sitting areas, fountains, a waterfall, stone elements, and appropriately-placed landscape lighting. The outdoor furniture all came from Colonial Classics.

J.T. calls a landscaped backyard “a continual work in progress,” as he’s planning to add another quiet sitting space further back in the outdoor area, decorated with garden art. He admits the work to maintain the property is nothing like when they first bought the home. “It was a jungle,” he says.

“One of the first things I did was removing the brambles, undergrowth, and indigenous shrubby bushes,” says J.T. “I methodically cut down the undesirable, diseased, and insect infected trees.”

J.T. removed the box elder trees, which carry an insect that may feed on maple and ash trees which shed leaves even in the heat, soft maples, which are swallow rooted, and thorny locust trees. In their place, he planted dogwoods, redbuds, crabapples, and magnolias because these ornamental trees grow underneath the canopies of larger trees, and birds enjoy their fruit.

Coco, a Golden Retriever, has access to the backyard and the garage at all times. Coco especially enjoys hunting the frogs that live in the rocks of the waterfall and watching the wildlife that wanders through the yard. Deer, foxes, wild turkey, and birds all explore in the backyard landscape.

“I’m a treehugger,” he says. “One of the reasons I have stayed in this business is because I love nature. There is a vicarious pleasure that I get from planting trees and coming back 20 to 30 years later and seeing what that tree has grown into.”

He also terraced the backyard to divert water away from the property’s patio and garden. In the last three years, J.T. enlarged the patio and waterfall, and added the hot tub.

Both Julie and J.T., who have been married for seven years, enjoy entertaining guests and grilling outside. Julie works as the director of talent management at Old National Bank where she has been for 25 years. Together, they share a blended family of four children: Colin McCarty, 28, Lauren Falls, 27, Cara McCarty, 26, and Lindsey Falls, 25. The pair own two dogs who have access to the garage and backyard at all times.

“When we come home, we can thoroughly enjoy the tranquility and peace of mind by communing with Mother Nature,” says J.T. “We have deer, wild turkey, and foxes that all walk through our yard, and all kinds of birds, too. When I can come home to relax with a cold drink, unwind, enjoy the blooming azaleas and dogwoods, it makes going home a lot of fun to look forward to. I have a wonderful wife to enjoy it with. I’ve been lucky enough to make my vocation my vacation."

For more information about Colonial Classics, call 812-853-6622 or visit


Gardens That Swing

Henderson club features fifth biennial garden tour
The Garden Club of Henderson is hosting its fifth biennial Gardens that Swing Tour on June 7.

You don’t have to be a professional landscaper to have a beautiful garden or outdoor space to enjoy. Members of the Garden Club of Henderson, Ky., are hoping their fifth biennial Gardens That Swing tour will showcase lovely and unique outdoor settings, and help provide inspiration for others in search of ideas.

The tour features gardens of all sizes, from a small garden that maximizes limited space to larger and more traditional gardens. This tour will also feature outdoor living spaces, which tour chairperson Marietta Peckenpaugh says the club is very excited about, noting that more people are now investing in outdoor kitchens. One such habitat featured on the tour is no bigger than an average-sized indoor room and boasts a television built into a shelter, a dining area, and a bar, while another sits on 42 acres and contains a regulation-sized basketball court, dining area, and hot tub.

When evaluating gardens for the tour, club members look for a takeaway idea or concept that might inspire others, “whether it’s lavish or very simple.

A garden selected for the tour, says Peckenpaugh, “doesn’t have to be a princely garden, but it’s got to have an idea.

The purpose of the Garden Club of Henderson, founded in 1925, is the preservation of beauty in Henderson. The club’s work can be seen on a stroll through Henderson’s Central Park, and it’s also responsible for the new flagpoles and plantings at the north and south entrances to the city. While the membership presently consists mostly of women, the club welcomes and encourages men with an interest in gardening to join its ranks. Members meet on the first Thursday of each month for some kind of horticultural exchange, whether it’s a session on beneficial bugs or a field trip to learn about unique gardens.

The tour is presented in conjunction with the annual W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival and takes place on the first day of the festival, alongside the Taste of Henderson Barbecue event in Central Park, where tickets for the tour will be on sale that day. This year’s event will be held June 7.

We are proud to do this with the blues festival,” says Peckenpaugh. “We love the fact that we have people here for the festival and we can show off one more aspect of Henderson.

For more information on the Garden Club of Henderson, 


Green Girls

Sustainable gardens conserve natural resources
This rain garden at the Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana headquarters was the first rain garden constructed.

The Girl Scouts may be known for their delicious cookies. But during these hot months, they’re becoming known for their rain gardens.

Rain gardens conserve and reuse rain to water plants. They feature planted depressions to allow rainwater runoff or rain barrels to collect water. In addition to creating the gardens, the young girls also are becoming educated on the environment, natural resources, and conservation.

“(It) is about sustainability, to continue to educate others, and the garden is a visual representation of that,” says Jessica Cottone, corporate and foundation giving coordinator of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana. “It’s about the environment and the wildlife — and it’s making the world a better place.”

These vibrant, lush gardens are popping up all over the Tri-State. Even more, they are flourishing with a variety of plants native to this area, such as day lilies, irises, Shasta daisies, and peonies.

Created as part of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana (GSSI) Forever Green Take Action Project, the rain gardens are cared for by the troop. The gardens then are passed along to future members.

Karen Bengert, Troop Leader No. 206, recently witnessed the creation of a rain garden when her troop saw the opportunity to beautify an area of St. Theresa School’s campus. “This journey helped to teach the girls the skills needed to plant a garden and to care for it for a lifetime,” she says.

The first GSSI rain garden was planted outside of the corporate office in Downtown Evansville in May 2012, in honor of the organization’s CEO, Jan Davies, for her 40 years of service to Girl Scouts. Other rain gardens can be found at St. Benedict Cathedral School and at several locations in Ferdinand, Ind. Rain gardens are in progress at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Haubstadt, Ind. Ultimately, GSSI hopes to see rain gardens in each of its 11 counties with the help of community sponsors.

For more information about the Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana, or how to become involved with a rain garden, call 812-421-4970, ext. 311, or visit


2,012 Trees

Grow a living memory to commemorate Evansville’s Bicentennial
Help the city of Evansville, Keep Evansville Beautiful, and several other organizations plant 2,012 trees in 2012.Help the city of Evansville, Keep Evansville Beautiful, and several other organizations plant 2,012 trees in 2012.
Help the city of Evansville, Keep Evansville Beautiful, and several other organizations plant 2,012 trees in 2012.

In honor of Evansville’s Bicentennial celebration, the city of Evansville, Keep Evansville Beautiful, and several other organizations are offering the Citizen’s Challenge, a community goal of planting 2,012 trees in 2012.

Larry Caplan, a horticulture educator at the Purdue extension office, says the project is well on its way to completion. “We want everyone to get involved,” he says. “The trees can be in your front yard, back yard, wherever. They don’t have to be publicly accessible.”

The Citizen’s Challenge encourages planting native trees and sending in a photo or posting it on the challenge’s Facebook page. All submitted trees that are planted throughout 2012 in Vanderburgh County are included in the total tree count, and are entered into a drawing for a free tree at the end of the year to be planted by the River City Tree Committee. Information on native trees is posted at From there, you can find additional links to specific planting guides and figuring out what kind of tree will work best in your planned location.

How to Submit:
Submit your photo to the 2,012 Trees in 2012 Facebook page, or send in a photo of your newly planted tree to the Department of Sustainability, Energy, and Environmental Quality, 100 E. Walnut St., CK Newsome Community Center, Suite 100, Evansville, Ind. 47713. For more information, call Shawn Dickerson, arborist with the Evansville Department of Urban Forestry, at 812-436-5752, or Larry Caplan at 812-435-5287.