Gardener Stories

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...

David Boyce and Sharon Martyn

Year:
2012
Neighborhood:
Brooklyn Centre

David and Sharon both lived in the suburbs but decided they wanted to live in an old house in a friendly neighborhood. They found the perfect house at 4403 Dennison Avenue. The house built in 1896 is in the American Four Square style of design. The house was built for the Storer family who farmed the property. As their children married they built their homes in the area too. Sharon and David's property has been designated a Certified Wildlife Habitat. The requirements to get this certification are that the property needs to provide the four basic elements for wild life to thrive: food, water, cover and a place to raise young. Five other residents of 44th street share this designation.

Two large silver maple trees shade the house in the front. One of the trees has a hollow in the...

Lisa Curran

Year:
2012
Neighborhood:
Broadway Slavic Village

Lisa has lived in this house, which was built in 1914, for the past 12 years. She loves this part of Slavic Village because the neighbors are friendly and look out for each other. Lisa was born in Long Island and moved several times as a child because of her father's job. She was 13 when her family came to Cleveland.

Brilliant blue hydrangeas grace the front of the house, which is shaded by an enormous oak tree. In the back Lisa has an outdoor eating area with a border of English and French lavendar to segregate the dogs from the space. Day lilies, Shasta Daisies and moon flowers grow along the fence and in the back of the lot Lisa plans to plant butterfly bushes to attract more butterflies to her garden. She loves to sit in the back and watch lightening bugs at night and...

Terry Mitchell

Year:
2012
Neighborhood:
Broadway Slavic Village

In the 6 years Terry has lived in this house he has created a paradise in his back yard. The front yard is beautiful too and gives a hint to what a visitor will find in the back.

The front yard is only about 4 feet deep with a beautiful custom made iron fence. Red Hot Pokers, hosta, ferns and an azalea bush grow in the attractive rock edged beds in the front. Terry loves to collect architectural objects and use them in his gardens. He has many bird baths, statues, old bricks removed when Broadway was repaved and pavers used to create interesting garden features. A previous owner of the house worked for a company that made headstones, and granite pavers and borders can be found throughout the garden. Terry has created a peaceful patio close to the house in the back, separating...

Zvonimir Mirceta aka Alex

Year:
2012
Neighborhood:
Detroit Shoreway

The house at 1329 West 65 street was built by a carpenter for his family in 1900. In 1942 the Isabella family bought the house for $5,231.00. Mr Isabella was a baker and he and his wife raised 9 children in the house. Ann Isabella, a daughter, described it as" a happy house", when she sold it to the present owner on Christmas Day in 1989. Alex remembered that day, ”My cousin, Branko, with whom I grew up in the former Yugoslavia, was present.  He took a photograph of me holding the key to the house.  It was my first house, at the age of 40...”

The neighborhood was rugged, loud and uncertain.The surrounding houses were occupied by transient tenants, coming and going, leaving their unwanted wounds on the tree lawn behind them. 

Alex continues, ”Buying an old house has its...

Kentucky Garden Gail Long/Joan Maguire

Year:
2012
Neighborhood:
Ohio City

Imagine an earthen, rectangular impoundment approximately 40 to 50 feet tall stretching from approximately West 38th to West 32nd Street, bounded by Franklin
Avenue on the north. A pumping station located at the end of West 38th Street brought the water up from Lake Erie and pipes delivered it to the west and east sides of town. A promenade was built on top of the impoundment which residents of the surrounding neighborhoods used to enjoy views of the lake and city. This promenade became known as Fairview Park. The reservoir became too small to meet the needs of the city and was replaced by two others located on the east side. After the land was leveled, it sat vacant for quite a while. The city eventually developed the area into a park, which it named Reservoir Park. However, the...

Judith Bontempo

Year:
2012
Neighborhood:
Ohio City

Judy and Jim Bontempo’s garden is like a piece of heaven in the city. Neat stone paths lead from one beautiful space to another. The temperature drops many degrees when one enters the cool lush passages and increases when entering sunny open vegetable garden. Beautiful trees, shrubs, flowers, statues and objects abound.

Judy and Jim grew up in Ohio City but spent many years in New Jersey where Jim was employed as an emergency planner in a nuclear power plant. When Jim retired nine years ago they moved back to Cleveland and bought their present home, which was built in 1910, from Judy’s parents. Originally there were five homes on the property. Jim and Judy live in the middle home, the house on Bridge Avenue is a double rental and they created their huge vegetable garden this...

Bernd & Civita Blaske

Year:
2012
Neighborhood:
Detroit Shoreway

Bernie and Civita met in an English language class shortly after they had both emigrated to the US. Bernie came from Germany at age 19 and Civita from Italy at age 16. They have been married for 52 years and raised 5 daughters in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.

The most unusual feature of their garden is the back yard that is entirely taken up by train tracks and settings for Bernies extensive electric train collection. Bernie constructed an elaborate replica of the Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland complete with an overhead gondola and a ski village. Buffalo and dinasours graze on the slopes of the mountain and this year Bernie will add a water feature with ottors and also a miniature windmill. There is another set of tracks on the ground at the very back of the yard. This...

Gregory Cznadel

Year:
2012
Neighborhood:
Old Brooklyn

Welcome the “Home for Abused and Abandoned Plants.”  This is the name Gregory Cznadel has given to his garden. He enlarged the original property when he purchased .6 acre of land at an auction in 2006. He is a National Wildlife Steward and his goal is to turn his property into an arboretum and nature preserve. 

Greg’s garden is also a learning center where he has inspired adults and children with little known facts about wildflowers and the science of dendrology. He is currently designing tags for the wildflowers including mythological stories, medical uses and poems to the wildflowers. A poem he loves to share is Forget-me-not by Janett Dengo that tells us remember to stop and smell the roses (1st verse):

Bluish are the petals of this bloom

Growing beautifully...

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