Book written by beloved 99-year-old Butler County gardener to be released next month

A book written by a longtime operator of a small farm and nursery in Hamilton is set to be published on the same day a celebration of life will be held for sure.

Mary E. Harrison, who died in March at 99, was best knownfrom Mary’s Plant Farm & Landscaping, and she spent much of her time during the pandemic writing about her life of gardening for the forthcoming book, “Mary’s Plant Farm: A Love Story.” It will be released from on Aug. 14.

“The book is her life in the garden, but it is also a mix of things about how she started her family, how she got interested in gardening through her father, and her development of a nursery. So, it’s a book about the garden as it transitions from January through December,” said Harrison’s daughter, Sherri Berger, who ran Mary’s Plant Farm with her.

Berger said Harrison found her niche in the garden, and it was the thing that gave her the greatest joy in life. She moved to the property in 1947 and started her garden on the three acres at her residence. Later, she started the nursery in 1975 and it opened in the spring of 1976. Harrison was in her mid-50′s when she started Mary’s Plant Farm.

“Mary’s Plant Farm: A Love Story” shares a collection of stories about Harrison’s life in the garden, how the nursery came to be and other personal highlights. There are also photos of some of her favorite plants. She wrote the book longhand during COVID-19.

“For people who were used to her newsletters for the past 44 years of Mary’s Plant Farm, we call it ‘Mary’s speak,’ because she has a way. It’s stream of consciousness and it’s a lot of information,” said Berger.

Customers, friends and family had asked Harrison to write a book for more than 30 years. Harrison had a knack for making unusual, harder to find plants available to her customers.

“She wrote about what she loved. She wrote about the garden that she made, and she started that garden in 1947 when she moved to the property. It was a blank slate. It was a cornfield,” Berger said, “So, her entire life was developing that garden, and educating and helping people to know what they could do in their garden to make it special to them and ‘an individual garden,’” Berger said.

One of the reason’s Harrison didn’t write a book sooner, was because she couldn’t sit down long enough. She was always working in her garden.

“There were always pages she would put in a binder or a box, and she would say, ‘Oh, that’s for the book, but it got shoved over in the corner. She just never took the time to write the book. She wrote articles for many gardening publications and journals, but those were articles, it was never a full book,” Berger said, “The pandemic and her decreased mobility the last year really forced or gave the opportunity for her to sit down and write the book.”

Harrison had heart problems over the past several decades, but it didn’t slow her down any. She was 99 years and 8 months old when she passed away at home.

Harrison, 99, passed away on March 12, just four months shy of her 100th birthday. Mary’s Plant Farm and Landscaping is also celebrating its 45 anniversary this year, which will mark the nursery’s final season. Mary’s Plant Farm is expected to close sometime in October.

“Daddy built the house, and mother requested big, huge windows from every angle so that she could look out into the garden. It didn’t matter what room she was in, she wanted to view the gardens, and she did,” Berger said, “During the pandemic, we were allowed to be open, and she could watch customers walking through the gardens, and sometimes, if she was out on the balcony and there were customers on the lower terrace, they could call up to her, and she could talk with them.”

Mary’s Plant Farm is tucked away off Lanes Mill Road. Harrison’s home faces the road, and her garden and gift shop sit behind the house.

Harrison was born in Hamilton on July 25, 1921. She is survived by Berger and her husband, Paul, her granddaughter, Amanda Woolum and great grandson, Nicholas Withrow. Harrison was preceded in death by her husband, Alvis Harrison and her son Stephen D. Harrison.

A Celebration of Life service will be held in Mary’s Garden on Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. at Mary’s Plant Farm, 2410 Lanes Mill Road in Hamilton. The public is invited to attend. Her book, “Mary’s Plant Farm: A Love Story” will be available for purchase for $30 at her Celebration of Life. Contributions may be left in her memory to the McGonigle Millville United Methodist Church, 2370 Lanes Mill Road, Hamilton, Ohio 45013.

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