Gardener Stories

Tony Zajac's garden

Tony Zajac

Year:
2014
Neighborhood:
Slavic Village

The house on Claasen looks like any other house on the street, but when I start walking down the drive I glimpse the magical kingdom in the back yard.  Tony Zajac has lived in this house for the past twenty years. During that time he has transformed the back yard into a tropical paradise with hundreds of flowers and shrubs.

Anthony’s love of plants and gardening started at Harvey Rice elementary school in the 4th grade.  He had his own 20’X25’ plot where he grew vegetables and some annuals. He tended this garden every summer until the 7th grade.

Tony’s back yard is approximately 35’ wide by 35’ deep. In that space he has 145 annuals and 50 small evergreen trees in pots, 10 roses in the ground , 3 clematis vines, dozens of hostas and a...

Sue Telecky

Year:
2014
Neighborhood:
Larchmere

Every inch of Susan’s garden is occupied by a plant, stone, or water feature.  Much of the color is provided by the leaves of the different plants: lime green, silver grey, red, blue green. Sue has no lawn, even the tree lawn is covered by plants.  The back of the property, next to the garage, is shaded, dark and cool. Three white face masks provide a contrast to the dark green leaves and white flowers.  Sue has a beautiful koi pond in the sunnier area close to the house. The pond  is surrounded by perennials and lovely stone paths.  Japanese Painted ferns, hosta, huechera,  aruncus, astilbe and a beautiful lime green Japanese grass can be found throughout the shady areas in the garden including the front yard and tree lawn. This garden is a work of art with beautiful pairings of...

Gail Baker

Year:
2014
Neighborhood:
Larchmere

Gail and her husband have lived in the Larchmere neighborhood for the past 10 years. They love this area because of its diversity of people and diversity of housing styles. It’s a quiet neighborhood where people know and look out for each other. Almost 80% of the plants in Gail’s garden were gifts from people she knows. Her father in law is an expert rose propagator. He gave her many of the roses growing along the side of the house. Gail has a green thumb when it comes to hostas . The hosta plant in the back yard bed were planted only two years ago and are now enormous as are two huge hostas along the drive. Gail has a vegetable garden, compost bin and rain barrel behind the garage. Look out for Daisy, a sweet feral cat they adopted several years ago after she gave birth to a litter of...

Cynthia Chiplis

Year:
2014
Neighborhood:
Tremont

Jeff and Cynthia Chiplis have lived in Tremont for over 30 years. They met when they both worked for the Tremont West Development Corporation in the 1980’s. They own the homes and garden which many people visiting Tremont will recognize because of the interesting stone wall that runs along the boundary of the property at the corner of Jefferson and Professor Streets. Jeff cannot resist collecting dressed stones and architectural artifacts that are discarded on the tree lawns and in demolition sites in his neighborhood or the West 25th Street neighborhood. When the Central Market was demolished he acquired many of the stones that later became the wall. The bricks and other stones on top of the wall were placed to discourage people from loitering around their home and sitting on the wall...

Avon Standard

Year:
2013
Neighborhood:
Slavic Village

Upon meeting Avon Standard it quickly became apparent why he is now managing a second community garden, Regent Community Garden in Slavic Village.  He became involved in the mid 90’s and has continued to lead the efforts ever since. This includes using the large tractor and rototiller to turn and prepare the soil. Standing in the hoop house that opened last year his sense of enthusiasm is contagious.  The hoop house was featured in 'Minority Land Owner' magazine and now contains early thriving vegetables that will be shielded from adverse conditions and the groundhogs that would like to come for lunch.

The ‘summer sprout’ garden plots as they are aptly called are richly filled with peppers, sweet potatoes, greens, swiss chard and just about any vegetable variety. Interspersed...

Stanard Farm, St Clair Superior headquarter location

Year:
2013
Neighborhood:
St Clair Superior

Cleveland Crops

Cleveland Crops is a job training program of the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities and S.A.W., Inc.  The organization currently farms 40 acres at ten locations throughout Cuyahoga County providing employment for 65 people.

Stanard Elementary School was built in 1885 at 5342 Stanard Road, close to the East 55th and St Clair Avenue intersection. Stanard School was closed in 1964 after the chimney collapsed as a result of being hit by lightning.  The original building was acquired by the Land Bank in 2008; it was taken down by the deconstruction company A Piece of Cleveland and was conveyed to CCBDD’s Cleveland Crops in 2009.

Stanard is a 2 ½ acre urban farm where Cleveland Crops trains adults with developmental disabilities for...

John Young

Year:
2013
Neighborhood:
Old Brooklyn

When asked if he is a gardener or a conservationist John Young paused before answering. “I suppose a little bit of both” he said.  A trip to this 1840 homestead during Garden Walk Cleveland will not only give  visitors a chance to walk the same garden paths that John Young’s family has used since 1918, but they will also have a chance to enjoy Emerald Valley-fifteen acres of pristine woods. Mr. Young intends to preserve this valley in its natural state for him, his family and others to enjoy in the heart of Old Brooklyn. The valley eventually winds down to the confluence of the Big Creek and the Cuyahoga River. It includes one unnamed stream and seven springs.

Tended garden beds are marked with rock and sandstone, but the backdrop of oak, beech and maple trees as tall as any in...

Debbie O'Malley

Year:
2013
Neighborhood:
Old Brooklyn

When Old Brooklyn native Debbie O’Malley was ten years old, she spent the summer with her grandmother who had a huge, beautiful garden.  Debbie began her lifelong love of gardening that summer. She learned not only how to plant and weed a garden, but how to design one that was pleasing to the eye as well as relaxing and serene. 

Debbie and her grandmother believed that every garden should contain a bit of whimsy. You will find many hidden treasures throughout her gardens. She continues a tradition of winding gourds around the trees just as her grandmother did many years ago. Her gardens contain many inviting places for visitors to sit and enjoy a sense of peace and tranquility.

Fifteen years of gardening on 50th Street has offered Debbie a lot of enjoyment and given her...

Rosana Lanese

Year:
2013
Neighborhood:
Larchmere

 Rosana was 4 years old when she immigrated with her family from Italy. Gardening is in her genes. Her garden is small compared to the field in Italy where her parents grew wine grapes, grain and vegetables for their own meals, but the cold frame on the side of the driveway shows she is serious about growing vegetables. A romantic little path leads to an asparagus patch in the back. Two new apple trees are planted  in the backyard. In spring an exiting variety of tulips bloom in the front and side yard.

A coworker had told Rosana about the Larchmere neighborhood and in 1979 she moved there. Right away she fell in love with the neighborhood. Many people are out and about at all times and everything you could possibly need is available within walking distance, Downtown Cleveland...

Nancy McMillen

Year:
2013
Neighborhood:
Larchmere

We met Nancy McMillen in her front garden, she was wearing gardener’s knee protectors and clearly in the process of tackling spring clean-up.   She related a long history of gardening in her family when growing up, moving to several locations around the Great Lakes Region and always putting in a vegetable garden.   They settled in Painesville in the 60’s, where Nancy finished high school.   She has been living in the Larchmere area for 15 years and slowly taming and developing this front yard garden.  

Nancy is an avid fan of this section of Cleveland, enjoying the variety of shops along Larchmere Blvd, the easy access to downtown, her job in mid town, University Circle, and the close knit community of this area.     Many of her neighbors are gardeners too, trading plants and...

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