Happiness Blooms Through Gardening
Jerry Cieslak’s spring mornings start with a dose of daffodil viewing and a spoonful of honey from bees that frequent his lawn’s massive flower gardens.
Now showcasing more than 2 million daffodils and tulips alone, the breathtaking circular flower beds that dot his lawn started as a coping mechanism. Since then, the hobby has blossomed to dominate views from every window in his home. Today, those blooms spread as much happiness to others as they do to him.
“I’ve always liked flowers and growing things,” says Jerry, whose parents tended flower and vegetable gardens during his childhood. “I lost my wife and my son years ago. I had a real hard time for four or five years. I thought, ‘What can I do to help myself?’ I decided to create something special for myself.”
That special creation has evolved into a spectacular horticultural display. Jerry blankets 2 acres of his 5-acre, rural Zionsville homestead in color from spring to fall. The daffodils and tulips that outline his flowerbeds lose their spring splendor in May. By then, he adds 50,000 annual flowers to the insides of those beds. Begonias, impatiens and a variety of other flowers dot his lawn in color that thrives until the first heavy fall frost.
Without intention, his lawn provides some quality advertising for his day job as a plumber of wells.
“I have gotten a lot of business just from the quality of my yard because it speaks to the quality of my work,” Jerry says.
By day, Jerry owns and operates Cieslak Pump, Well and Water System Service, a business he established more than 30 years ago. He specializes in well and pump services in the Zionsville area.
Most people in the community, even new customers, know about Jerry’s flowers. In fact, many customers and friends have contributed to his flower beds.
A Master Gardener himself, Jerry has added thousands of bulb flowers to his gardens as transplants from others. As a result, some bulbs are 50 to 60 years old. He also supplements with new bulbs, including a shipment last fall of thousands of daffodils and tulip bulbs from Holland. He marvels over some of the unique varieties and their quality, with bulbs the size of tennis balls and amazing blossoms unrecognizable as traditional daffodils.
Jerry shares his garden’s bountiful color with friends, customers and anyone driving by his country home. He delivers surprise bouquets of dahlias to customers or leaves them on the doorsteps of neighbors’ homes. He also offers fresh-cut flowers to bars and restaurants for their tables.
“What pleases me the most is appreciating my flowers in friends’ and customers’ houses,” he says. “I appreciate them more than even right here.”
At home, he has hosted weddings, garden clubs and bus tours. His gardens serve as a space for family portraits. Professional photographers have created glossy albums of photos from his floral masterpieces. And the neighborhood beekeeper offers him all the fresh, raw honey that he can eat. After all, Jerry’s gardens hum with those honeybees most mornings.
Those early hours prove a good time to put on some walking shorts, stroll through wet grass and enjoy a colorful tour. It’s a “wonderful way to start the day,” he says.
A Garden’s Golden Rules
As much as anything, Jerry credits his bountiful spring and summer color to his soil. He creates a “black gold” from compost, which includes leaves and grass clippings, sometimes even from the neighbors’ yards.
As a result, he says, “All my flower beds are like planting in Miracle-Gro potting soil.”
He spreads the good news of composting to anyone interested. Jerry admits that he even talked a young boy into reaping compost’s benefits. The boy, who loved the idea, kept a compost bin behind the living room couch until his mother detected the odor.
Jerry willingly shares other tips with aspiring gardeners. He sifts and saves fine ash from his fireplace and applies it atop bulb plantings to boost vigor. He also prefers llama waste among fertilizer choices because the manure rarely contains weed seeds.
Jerry may have his floral beds mastered, but he’s not immune to trouble. Chipmunks love tulips, and he fights weeds on occasion. But his vigilance and extensive plantings overrule the weed issues. He also hires help when needed because these flower beds consume time. Last spring, he paid a local college soccer team to help with the planting of 50,000 annual flowers.
“In this magnitude, I thought I would create something I have never seen done before,” Jerry says. “It’s very rewarding to me. You can’t put a price on that.”