MERRILLVILLE | Sharalynne Pasztor is living her dream.
About to move to a farm in Valparaiso to expand her love of dog fostering and rescue, Pasztor sees the land as a clean slate—not only providing a fresh start to pets in need, but also a blank canvas for her other love, gardening.
While many gardeners draw inspiration from books and other gardens in the region, Pasztor is gaining hers from a trip to Italy, where she toured 11 gardens in 10 days.
She's now bringing Italy to Northwest Indiana next week, hosting a program that showcases some of the spectacular gardens she visited on her trip.
"Most of the gardens were in Tuscany, and it was a wonderful trip," she said. "I promised everyone I would share what I experienced after I got back."
Pasztor will hold the special program called "The Renaissance Gardens of Italy" at 3 p.m. Nov. 6 at Central Library, 1919 W. 81st Ave., Merrillville. The presentation is open to the public and is free of charge. The event is part of a series, co-sponsored by the Lake County Master Gardeners and the library, that is designed to increase gardening knowledge.
The trip, hosted by Purdue Master Gardeners, provided the 30 participants with an opportunity to see unique Italian gardens, including the Gardens of Ninfa, set among medieval ruins in a small town south of Rome, and the Vatican Gardens in Rome.
"All are very different, but feature aspects of the classical Italian garden," Pasztor said.
Her favorite stop, she said, was the Avenue of the Hundred Fountains at the Villa D'Este in Tivoli, Italy.
"It is a primary cross axis representing the three local rivers that flow in to the Tiber below Tivoli," she said. "I thought it was breathtaking."
Although she said she will try her best to bring the sights of Italian gardens to this region so other gardeners can draw inspiration, she fully admits it's impossible to replicate Italy.
"You won't be able to compare my presentation with being there - the smells and sights of the gardens, just being present in the garden rooms, the sounds of the fountains and the fabulous history of it all," she said. "You have to be there."
While Pasztor is busy planning her presentation, she's also preparing for a new leadership role as well. Beginning in January, she will be the new president of Lake County Master Gardeners. She currently is taking a 15-hour, 5-week seminar at the Purdue extension office on leadership skills, and says she is learning a lot on how to put those skills to use.
"My main focus right off the bat is to find ways to get people more active in the organization," she said.
She also has signed up for a new trip of inspiration - Purdue Master Gardeners is hosting a trip to France next summer, and Pasztor said she is already signed up to go.