When Dennis Denenberg moved to his Manheim Township home over 25 years ago, the yard was nothing but grass. Now, the entire acre is devoted to colorful flowers, luscious foliage and special features. The gardens reflect his love of family, art, collecting, entertaining, travel, The Wizard of Oz and giving back to the community through a cause that is close to his heart.
Diana Denenberg Durand, Dennis’ sister, courageously battled breast cancer for 18 years after being diagnosed at the age of 43. Soon after reaching the five-year, cancer-free mark, doctors discovered cancer had developed in her other breast. She continued to fight, but over time the cancer metastasized to other parts of her body, leading to her passing in 2007. “She was an incredible fighter,” Dennis recalls. “She was an avid researcher and really did her homework about breast cancer.”
In honor of his sister, Dennis founded Diana’s Dreamers: Determined to Defeat Breast Cancer, a breast-cancer-awareness program for college students. The endowment for the program was set up through the Millersville University Foundation, where Diana and Dennis both share a connection. Diana was one of the first female math majors at Millersville University and served as editor-in-chief of The Snapper her senior year. Dennis was a professor of elementary and early childhood education at the university from 1987 until his retirement in 2002.
Following his retirement, he has remained involved at the university, establishing the Diana Denenberg Spirit Garden in 2007 and the Diana & Marsha Breast Cancer Awareness Center in 2012. He also helped implement the annual Breast-A-Ville event, which is a fun, educational festival for students to learn about breast health.
In addition to his initiatives at Millersville, Dennis keeps Diana’s memory alive in his gardens. A section dedicated to Diana radiates shades of pink from spring through fall and features a sign that reads: “You won’t ever see her giving up ’cause she is a fighter,” which are lyrics from the song Fighter by Liz Fulmer. Another nod to his family is seen in the 75 peony plants that were transplanted from his late father’s home in Manheim.
The gardens also feature a bamboo grove, two ponds, a Mardi Gras tree hung with souvenir beads and shade sails over a bed of hosta. Dennis’ love of The Wizard of Oz is also represented through a yellow brick road leading to Emerald City (crafted from PVC pipe) and Toto’s dressing room. (BTW: The photos shown here were featured in our May 2019 issue. The photo of the yellow brick road leading to Emerald City is our top pin on Pinterest and received over 98,000 impressions, nearly 2,000 pin clicks and about 800 saves just this March alone!)
From spring through fall, the Gardens of Oz are constantly in bloom. In the spring, 6,000 daffodils bloom. The gardens transition through the summer to include an array of perennials and plants such as large agaves, succulents, lilies and elephant ears. Come August, the property blooms with moonflowers and over 200 hibiscus plants. There is no bad time to visit!
Touring the Gardens
The gardens are free to visit, but donations to Diana’s Dreamers are encouraged. To visit, gather a group of 15 or more people and schedule a tour directly with Dennis. He also welcomes nonprofits to use his gardens for fundraising events. Donations to Diana’s Dreamers will be coordinated with Dennis at the time of scheduling. Contact Dennis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-682-0206 to schedule a tour. For more information, visit gardensofoz.com.